During the 100 days of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that ravaged Rwanda from April until July 1994, many women and girls were raped and experienced other forms of sexual violence.
During this period, rape was systematic and was used as a weapon by the perpetrators of the genocide. Sexual violence was inflicted upon the women with complete impunity, and as a very effective weapon by the extremists.
After genocide, many women suffered many health setbacks given that over 500,000 women and girls are said to have been affected.
The sexual violence also resulted in social exclusion due to the loss of lose self confidence.
Patricia Mukashema is a 24 years old genocide survivour.
She said, “Some girls feared that they would no longer find husbands. So they fled from their homes to live in seclusion and anonymity.”
Although these women’s lives were theoretically spared, their traumatic experiences have robbed them of their community and identity.
“This is a big setback not only to the victim but also to their family,” she said
Forced impregnation had deep psychological effects on these women. Suffered exclusively by women, forced pregnancy involves a violation of among other things reproductive freedom and sexual autonomy, and has lasting effects given that the women may then have to raise the offspring alone.
These women who became pregnant suffered intense shame in a society that is particularly unwilling to accept unwed mothers. Moreover, mistreatment by society including by their own families, led many unmarried mothers to resort to abortion.
The passage of time is unlikely to cure the psychological harm done to the victims of rape.
Women also suffered the various physical effects associated with sexual violence. The physical injuries suffered during that time and their consequences ranged from mere abrasions to instant death, and included infection with sexually transmissible diseases such as HIV and AIDS.
The government however, has worked hard to overcome health challenges brought about by gender violation through increase to health care access.
Another genocide survivour, who preferred to remain anonymous, confessed that after the genocide, she found out that she was pregnant and had an abortion.
“The baby just came out dead,” she confessed
She had to endure not only a physical risk on her body, but also the psychological damage resulting from a stillbirth.
Ultimately, sexual violence had harsh and lasting consequences for the Rwandese society. The harm experienced by these women during genocide has been particularly severe in light of the physical, psychological, and social impact.
The population of women is estimated to be higher than that of men in Rwanda; hence the magnitude of the damaging effects on Rwandan society as a whole cannot be underestimated.
Today, the government has put up measures to overcome and fight against gender based violence. In Rwanda, the Ministry of Local government, national agencies, and NGOs have coordinated efforts to educate all community members about the definition and consequences of rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
Rwandan legislators have come out with clear guidance on the administration of penalties in rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence cases.