Nine months after Rwanda’s horrific massacres, unwanted babies by the hundreds, even thousands, are being born to women raped by rampaging Hutu soldiers and militiamen.
“The scope of the rapes is unimaginable,” wrote Dr. Catherine Bonnet, a French child psychiatrist, in a grim report released this week.
Bonnet would not speculate on the total number of rapes, but said interviews with relief workers, doctors and victims suggested “that virtually every woman or girl past puberty who was spared from massacre by the militias had been raped.”
An estimated 500,000 people, mostly Tutsis, were massacred from April through June of last year after Hutu military forces began a campaign of genocide when their Hutu president was killed in a plane crash.
Bonnet said those who suffered the worst of the massacres - Tutsis and the Hutu intelligentsia - were also the main victims of rapes, committed mainly by Hutu militias. Still, she said the Tutsi-led rebels who eventually defeated the Hutudominated army committed some “isolated” rapes.
“Gang rapists formed groups of six or eight to massacre families on the lists and rape the women, either before or after the killing,” Bonnet wrote. “They seemed to have no fear of committing the worst acts: raping corpses or women who had just given birth.”
Her report was commissioned by Foundation of France, a major charitable group comparable to the United Way. Among the findings:
Rwanda’s National Population Office estimates the number of rapecaused pregnancies at up to 5,000. Bonnet, however, says no precise figures on rape victims, pregnant or not, are available because so many were still too ashamed or frightened to acknowledge their ordeal.
The main hospitals in Kigali, the capital, and in Kapgayi, 25 miles to the southwest, reported that since September, 60 percent to 70 percent of the pregnant women coming in for treatment had been raped.
Health officials told her up to 90 percent of the rape-impregnated women do not want to keep the babies, and quoted some women who said, “I hope it dies,” and “I don’t want to keep a criminal in my womb.”
Many women have sought abortions, even though they are illegal in the predominantly Roman Catholic, Central Africa country, and some attempted abortions on themselves. Hospital officials report numerous cases of women suffering infections and hemorrhages because selfabortions.
Nuns linked to Mother Teresa have taken in some newborns abandoned in Rwandan hospitals.
Many women and girls were sexually mutilated and then killed after being raped, and life for many of the surviving victims has been a nightmare.
“Those who survived often contemplate suicide and feel guilty for having submitted to rape,” Bonnet wrote.
Bonnet heard numerous accounts of raped women being spared from massacre on condition they continued to provide sex for their captors.
The U.N. Security Council, reacting to reports of widespread rape of Bosnian women in 1992, designated systematic mass rape as a crime against humanity. But there have been few concerted attempts to prosecute those responsible for rapes either in Bosnia or Rwanda.<
“Because there is no judicial system in place to enable these women to file charges, and because the rapists remain free, the women are forced to remain silent to protect their lives,” Bonnet said.