Sexual violence during the genocide

Sexual violence during the genocide

The UN estimated in 1996 that 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped and experienced other forms of sexual violence during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The sexual violence took on different cruel forms, such as gang rape, rape with objects, sexual slavery, forced marriage and sexual mutilation. Rape was often repeatedly committed over an extended period of time. Neither pregnant women nor young girls were spared. Many rapes were conducted in front of family members and many children were born from rape. Many women were murdered after they were raped. The Organization of African Unity reported in 2000 that “almost all females who survived the genocide were direct victims of rape or other sexual violence, or were profoundly affected by it”. The victims were mostly Tutsi women, but moderate Hutu women were also targeted. Of particular influence was the anti-Tutsi propaganda that preceded the 1994 genocide, which called on the Hutu population to beware of the Tutsi population. The perpetrators of sexual violence were largely members of the Hutu militia, the Interahamwe, but rapes were also committed by soldiers of the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR), including the Presidential Guard, and civilians. Sexual violence took place all over the country and was in many cases perpetrated in plain view.

The sexual violence that took place in Rwanda during the genocide stands out in a number of ways compared to other conflict situations: the organised nature of the propaganda, which contributed significantly to fuelling sexual violence against Tutsi women; the very public nature of the rapes; and the level of brutality directed towards women. According to the organisation Survivors Fund, only an estimated 25,000 women who were raped survived the genocide.