Over a million people were killed in 1994 during Rwanda’s genocide and war, with many women compelled to ‘offer’ sex, raped, held in collective or individual sexual slavery and mutilated. An estimated 250 000 to 500 000 women still alive were raped between 1990 and 1994, 30 000 pregnancies resulted from rape and the 67% of survivors considered HIV positive continue to suffer the consequences of wartime sexual violence (Wells, 2004-2005). Countless women now live with serious illnesses, pain or injury, unable to provide for families. The level of trauma is severe, compounded by shame, exclusion, stigma, survivor’s guilt and contested feelings towards the children of bad memories born of rape and as many perpetrators were neighbours who often live nearby. Despite commitment to the rights of women and recognition of the prevalence of rape during the genocide, the Rwandese government has been slow to offer legal redress, medical treatment and counselling and has not prioritized prosecution and punishment. Conviction rates are low. Reparations are not forthcoming. Neither the national courts nor the gacaca, have investigated and prosecuted these cases in a fitting manner. Although attention has been paid to sexual violence, defects in the drafting of statutory law and its implementation discourage reporting, investigation and prosecution. Recent procedural revisions dismiss very real fears around fair trial, public ridicule, and increased trauma. Difficulties in addressing the legacies and widespread nature of sexual violence are being overlooked as the government prioritizes the construction of a sense of nationhood and continuation of its own power over the needs of survivors. The result is that many women, infected with HIV or with other serious illnesses, are slowly dying without reparation, healthcare, counselling or seeing perpetrators brought to justice.
"An appraisal of Rwanda’s response to survivors who experienced sexual violence in 1994,"
Wagadu: A Journal of Transnational Women's & Gender Studies: Vol. 10:
1, Article 7.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.cortland.edu/wagadu/vol10/iss1/7