Rape – a brutal act of violence almost as old as the human race and an intrinsic part of nearly every conflict since time immemorial as a “necessary bounty for fighting men”. Indeed, until very recently, the world largely turned a blind eye to the use of rape in war, regarding it as private actions committed by individuals. Perpetrators were and are rarely held accountable for their actions. Rape survivors, on the other hand, suffer severe stigma and discrimination, especially if they are also living with HIV. In addition, they largely shy away from speaking openly about sexual violence. In many conservative societies, rape survivors have also to endure the denial of their right to employment, to property and to inheritance. This, in turn, makes them economically and socially vulnerable, and in many cases leading to further violence in a world where, ironically, the phrases “human rights” and “women’s rights” appear almost daily in newspapers around the globe.
The stark reality of what rape survivors have to endure in today’s “free” world hits one like a ton of bricks when reading the intense, heart-wrenching testimonials of 17 genocidal rape victims as reported in this publication. Sixteen years after the 100-day genocide in Rwanda between April and June 1994, these 17 brave souls have become the voice of between 250 000 and 500 000 women, young boys and men, who were the victims of the genocidal sexual violence. Their faces, beautifully captured in black and white by photographer Samer Muscati, still bear the marks of intense suffering. They have survived, but at a great cost. They have lost the innocence of childhood, their partners, their families, their livelihood, their homes, their self-respect and in many cases, their health, since many of them were deliberately infected with HIV by the Hutu perpetrators, in an orchestrated method to ensure that the future sexual partners and children of Tutsi survivors would be infected as well and eventually be killed by the disease.
For the full review by Dr Anna-Mart van Wyk of Monash University, South Africa, click here.