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Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation

Rwanda


Organized and Institutionalized Sexual Exploitation and Violence

Rape was used as an act of terrorism on thousands of women during the genocide in Rwanda. Only one person has been charged with the rapes against women. The women are systematically told, "You should be glad that you’re alive." (Connie Ngondi, executive director of Kenya's branch of the International Commission of Jurists, Arusha-based U.N. tribunal, Muringi, "Seeking Gender Role in International Court Debate," United Nations, 12 August 1997)

Rape has been defined as a genocidal crime for the first time by an international tribunal. United Nations judges also said that sexual violence is not limited to "physical invasion" of the body and may not even require physical contact. Acts of sexual violence brutally wielded during Rwanda's 1994 bloodbath "constitute genocide, the same as any other act," Judge Laity Kama of Senegal said as he read nine guilty judgments against a former Rwandan village mayor, Jean-Paul Akayesu. Women's groups hailed the decision as historic, saying it would pave the way for prosecuting crimes of sexual violence committed in the course of armed conflict.

Akayesu was found guilty of genocide, murder, rape and torture in presiding over the slaughter of 2,000 minority Tutsis who had sought his protection. While no one accused Akayesu of personally raping any women, the court ruled he was criminally responsible because he witnessed and encouraged the sexual violence of militiamen and police. Acts of sexual violence generally were accompanied by explicit threats of death or bodily harm, and that meant Tutsi women lived in constant fear, the court said. (Karin Davies, Associated Press, 2 September 1998)


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Coalition Against Trafficking in Women
Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation
Donna M. Hughes, Laura Joy Sporcic, Nadine Z. Mendelsohn and Vanessa Chirgwin