Ten years after the Rwandan genocide, the horrific sexual violence that shattered the lives of tens of thousands of women and girls remains hidden from view, impunity is still accorded to its perpetrators, and the suffering of its victims goes unacknowledged. Rwandan women and girls who suffered sexual violence during or after 1994 face persistent barriers to legal redress as well as to health care for the consequences of the abuse. Certain obstacles, such as the lack of medicolegal evidence, may be insurmountable for women raped during the genocide but can be overcome in the cases of future victims of sexual violence. Other barriers to legal redress are more easily remedied, and these remedies will facilitate accountability for past and present rape survivors.
As a priority, the Rwandan government should act immediately to implement protections under the 2004 Gacaca Law for genocide survivors who wish to testify about rape to gacaca judges or prosecutorial officials, and for post-1994 victims who wish to report to the police. Such measures should include intensive training for authorities to make them knowledgeable and effective interlocutors for rape victims. The government should further ensure that medical professionals who examine rape victims have been trained in medicolegal procedure, specifically for sexual violence investigations. The government should ensure the confidentiality of rape victims, with respect to their conversations with police and other authorities and their testimony at trial. It is essential that the government adopt a reparations law to compensate genocide survivors, including rape victims, for human rights abuses they suffered by ensuring them their fundamental rights to the highest attainable standard of health and to an adequate standard of living.