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Mass rape in Rwanda's 1994 civil war

The US news media had covered the loss of life in Rwanda's 1994 civil war, but conspicuously absent from American news reports is the brutal detail of gang rapes and torture of civilians. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 women were raped during the armed conflict which mobilized Hutus to kill minority Tutsis and uncooperative Hutus. A UNICEF survey of Rwandan children of war stated 31.4% witnessed a rape or sexual assault.

From Human Rights Watch September 1996 publication SHATTERED LIVES Sexual Violence during the Rwandan Genocide and its Aftermath

During the 1994 genocide, Rwandan women were subjected to sexual violence on a massive scale, perpetrated by members of the infamous Hutu militia groups known as the Interahamwe, by other civilians, and by soldiers of the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR), including the Presidential Guard. Administrative, military and political leaders at the national and local levels, as well as heads of militia, directed or encouraged both the killings and sexual violence to further their political goal: the destruction of the Tutsi as a group

... testimonies from survivors confirm that rape was extremely widespread and that thousands of women were individually raped, gang-raped, raped with objects such as sharpened sticks or gun barrels, held in sexual slavery (either collectively or through forced "marriage") or sexually mutilated. These crimes were frequently part of a pattern in which Tutsi women were raped after they had witnessed the torture and killings of their relatives and the destruction and looting of their homes. According to witnesses, many women were killed immediately after being raped.

... Rapes were sometimes followed by sexual mutilation, including mutilation of the vagina and pelvic area with machetes, knives, sticks, boiling water, and in one case, acid.

From Coalition on Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations publication RWANDA: Akayesu Sentencing a Victory for Women's Rights
During the trial, Rwandan women testified that they had been subjected to repeated collective rape by militia and that Akayesu made no effort to stop this horror, even though he had the power to do so. They spoke of witnessing other women being gang-raped and murdered while Akayesu stood by, saying to the rapists at one point "don't complain to me now that you don't know what a Tutsi woman tastes like."

A report by Rwandan Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo stated that rape by HIV-infected men had been used as an "instrument of genocide".


Rwanda: Rape and other forms of violence against women

Women for Women International (Click on Rwanda link for information on rape in Rwanda)

Daily Mail and Guardian Rwanda Archives