Rwanda’s First Lady Mrs. Jeannette Kagame has written an op-ed advocating for rape survivors and the importance of caring for rape victims.
This op-ed was issued on June 19, 2019, on the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The first lady said that for survivors of rape, who in many ways carry a double burden, the journey of healing is more complex, filled with pain that most struggle to keep buried and forgotten.
She said that during the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsis, between 250,000 and 500,000 women were systematically raped, with the additional intent to infect them with HIV. The result was, approximately 67 percent diagnosed as HIV+, and an estimated 20,000 children born of these mass rapes.
“Beyond the physical damage they suffered, these women and girls – and in some cases, men and boys – continue to suffer from severe mental wounds that stripped them of their dignity, leaving them feeling like lesser human beings,” she noted.
On this day in 2008, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1820 declaring rape and other forms of sexual violence as “a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to Genocide”.
The first lady said that for countries such as Rwanda, which have experienced conflict and its devastating consequences, this was an important milestone as the first country to prosecute mass rape as war crime, in international courts.
“The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi saw over 1,000,000 men, women and children slaughtered in a 100 days. Of those who survived, many endured torture and public humiliation, often in the form of rape and sexual assault,” she said.
How can they be healed?
Mrs. Kagame observes that for true healing to occur, the country must create and promote a conducive environment where survivors can live dignified lives, unbound by crippling thoughts and the helplessness brought about by their ordeals.
Efforts must be pooled from the highest levels of leadership to the grassroots, to establish safe spaces that allow each victim and survivor of rape to heal, reconnect and reintegrate with the right support and at their own pace.
Even more so, as survivors have to live next to perpetrators, as many of them remained in their original communities; while the most notorious, will soon be returning to their homes, after serving their sentence.
The Express News