Rwanda’s rape victims – 15 years on

The scale of the Rwandan genocide shocked the world – and left the country reeling. An estimated 800,000 people died in 100 days of wanton violence that began 15 years ago this week. And the Hutu militias not only murdered their mostly Tutsi victims, but anywhere between a quarter and half a million women were subjected to brutal sexual attacks.

And for those women who survived, the time still haunts them. Denise Uwimana, who experienced the horrors of 15 years ago, explains:

“Fifteen years have passed and the genocide is like it happened yesterday because we still have wounds. They are external wounds and internal wounds.”

Ms Uwimana lived through the genocide and runs a charity which helps Rwanda’s survivors of sexual violence. She’s was recently in The Netherlands for the launch of a new book The Men Who Killed Me. It tells the stories of 16 women and one man who were raped, and survived.

Anne-Marie de Brouwer co-edited the book, and believes it meets an important need:

“Many people know that the genocide happened in Rwanda. But many people don’t know the extremeness of the sexual violence that took place in this country”.

An astonishing 70 percent of the Rwandan survivors of sexual assault are now HIV positive. Ms Uwimana hopes that the stories documented in the book will raise awareness about this issue.

“I think it’s good that all people can know the suffering of survivors today. The international community should know what happened to them.”

And as Ms de Brouwer notes, the book is also an important tool in the healing process for the survivors themselves.

“They [the women] all told me that they wanted their stories to be heard, that they wanted the world to know that these crimes had been committed against them”

Ms de Brouwer believes we all have a moral responsibility to do something for the survivors of the genocide and is the founder of the charity Mukomeze. This Rwandan word means “empower me”, and the group supports Rwandan survivors of sexual violence.

All proceeds from the The Men Who Killed Me will go to Mukomeze and its partners in Rwanda.

You can buy the book via the web site http://www.menwhokilledme.com

http://www.radionetherlands.nl/currentaffairs/region/africa/090407-rwanda-genocide-rapes

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