Health: Issues of women’s health - post genocide

For centuries women have been targeted and are the innocent victims of conflicts and genocides. Women are abused and subjected to sexual violence at such times by the perpetrators of the crime.
Violence in eastern Congo has forced thousands to flee their homes and led to widespread sexual violence against women. (Net photo)
Violence in eastern Congo has forced thousands to flee their homes and led to widespread sexual violence against women. (Net photo)

For centuries women have been targeted and are the innocent victims of conflicts and genocides. Women are abused and subjected to sexual violence at such times by the perpetrators of the crime.

As such women are raped in peace times also by men to show their superior physical power. But war or conflict time rape becomes different from peace time crime. During conflicts/ genocides women are abused in large numbers simultaneously, in majority of cases publicly to humiliate the society/community targeted for genocide.
As per a study of U

N., a quarter of about a million women were raped during the genocide in Rwanda.

Women are devastated physically, mentally and economically after such mass abuse and many health related problems develop.

Such mass rape gives rise to severe physical and mental trauma. Injuries to internal parts, injury to other parts of the body due to the forced physical activity occur immediately during the rape. 

These injuries can be severe enough to be fatal. Survivors   are prone to have sexually transmitted diseases (S.T.D) which leads to pelvic pain, pruritis and discharge from private parts. There has been increase in number of HIV/AIDS cases after conflicts and genocide.

Women get infected in a large number for no fault of their own. Thus they suffer a life time of sickness being prone to many infections.

Unwanted pregnancies add on to their misery. These women and the children born due to the mass rapes, often face a risk of being stigmatized in main stream society.

The abused lady finds it difficult to accept the child as the infant becomes a constant reminder of the traumatic experience Thus a social problem is created with unwanted/orphan children. 

The shame, humiliation and loss of respect they experience following such abuse, is incomparable. As women, they are supposed to be respected, more so in traditional societies. It is very traumatic for them to face gross misbehaviour by men and that too those known to them and who were supposed to respect them.

This causes much mental stress and its health related problems like depression, gastritis, hypertension, diabetes, e.t.c.
Financial problems due to loss of earning family members, lack of support provided by the family due to death of family members,   destruction of property, loss of valuables due to looting, all these factors enhance the mental trauma and stress experienced by these unfortunate women.

Nothing   can compensate for the losses experienced by these women. They need lots of sympathy, care and counselling.
First and foremost they have to be convinced that whatever has happened is not the end of life.

They should try to move on with life and get over the past. If there are any surviving family members, they should also be counselled to accept the affected victim in their fold.

She needs more respect, love and understanding from her family members to help overcome   the trauma she has experienced. In no way should these unfortunate women be stigmatized.

It is very important   to counsel these women and test them for   S.T.Ds, and HIV, so that they can receive treatment at the earliest before complications of these diseases develop.  They need help for medical treatment also.

In case of pregnancy resulting from rape, the affected lady and any surviving family members have to be cautioned   and advised against health hazards of abortion. They have to be mentally prepared to accept the coming child.

Single or orphaned women need institutional support for over all rehabilitation.

Vocational rehabilitation   is very useful for these women. It helps them to overcome their traumatic experience and become productive members of the society again.

Taking up a job or recreation also helps them financially. The Government of Rwanda has set a role model in the world in rehabilitating the women victims of genocide.

They have been given medical aid, counselling, vocational trainings and jobs. The sensitization of people for their needs has prevented them from being sidelined in the society.

Today progress made by women in this country is being appreciated by all those who know about it in the world. Today Rwanda stands to be one of the safest countries for women to live. Here all women are living with due dignity and respect and no fear.

E-mail –rachna212002@yahoo.co.uk

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