By Henda AlBiatty, MPH
April 6, 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the tragic Rwandan Genocide. The genocide lasted a total of 100 grotesque days resulting in 800,000 to 1 million killings. The civil war erupted due to conflicts between the Tutsi and the Hutu races. The Hutu were deemed to be the ethnic majority in Rwanda while the Tutsi were identified as a foreign race. As horrendous as this genocide was, its nightmare continues to exist with the coming-of-age begotten progeny.
Along with the killings, 250,000-500,000 women were raped during the 100 days of the genocide (Spencer, 2009). Approximately 67% of the women raped were infected with HIV and AIDS by HIV+ men as an additional weapon of genocide (Spencer, 2009). The rapes also resulted in 20,000 children born from the victim women (Spencer, 2009). Some of these children were born HIV+. The raped and sexually abused women still suffer the unfathomable traumas of those days and keep silent due to the stigma of rape and AIDS. As the debris of the genocide settles women are beginning to speak their stories. NPR reports that some of these women are finding solace in sharing their stories with other victim women who share the same memories.
As the recovery phase of the genocide takes effect, some women are receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS through an organization formed in Rwanda called AVEAS, short for the Association for Widows and Orphans and those Affected or Infected by HIV/AIDS (Baron, 2006). AVEAS has about 1,000 members who not only receive treatment for HIV/AIDS but also trauma counseling, skills training, and support agencies that offer health care or income support as many suffer greatly from poverty (Baron, 2006). Poverty continues to hinder these families’ ability to overcome their calamity.
As the genocide generation reaches the coming of age, questions of their fathers arise leaving the mothers in silence remembering the torture of those days. The mothers of rape shy away from informing their children about their conception, rather focusing on providing them as comfortable a life as possible.
Rape and sexual abuse has damaged the lives of these women and their children suffer the consequences as well. While rape and sexual abuse are not uncommon in developed countries let us increase the awareness and rise to the opposition to help prevent the cycle.
Baron, J. (2006, March 14). NPR World News. Rwandan Rape Survivors Find Solace in Shared History. Retrieved from:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5261423
Spencer, R. (2009). Rwanda Genocide: Sexual Violence. Retrieved from:http://modernhistoryproject2012.wordpress.com/genocide-facts/
Smith, D. (2011, May 26). The Guardian, World News Rwanda. Former Hutu militia leader arrested over Rwanda genocide. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/may/26/rwandan-genocide-mastermind-captured-drc