Photo credit: Adam Jones, Ph.D.
Women and Genocide in Rwanda
25 Years Later
Twenty-five years ago, one of the largest and most brutal genocides in history was underway in Rwanda. Up to one million people, including an estimated 70% of the country’s Tutsi population as well as moderate Hutus, were slaughtered by the Interahamwe militias, Hutu gangs, and even their neighbors over the course of just 100 days. But it is not only the death toll that defines the legacy of the violence: the Rwandan genocide also serves as an important case study for the role of women in conflict.Women’s role in the conflict was complex and many faceted. Their bodies bore the brunt of the violence – between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the conflict. HIV was used as a weapon, and infection rates skyrocketed. While some women were victims of the conflict, other women actively participated in the killing and even orchestrated or participated in sexual violence.
The aftermath of the genocide has highlighted the importance of women’s rights. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was the first international criminal tribunal to define rape as an act of genocide and to find an individual guilty of genocide on this basis. For everyday Rwandans, the post-genocide society has seen a loosening of patriarchal norms, and the country today boasts the world’s highest percentage of women in politics.