The Courage to Come Forward

Factors Related to Rwandan Women Taking Cases of Sexual Violence from the 1994 Genocide to Transitional Courts

Authored by: Meghan Brenna Morris

Categories: Human Rights, Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Mass Atrocities, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Sexual and Reproductive Health, Transitional Justice
Country: Rwanda
Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Year: 2014
Citation: Morris, Meghan Brenna. "The Courage to Come Forward: Factors Related to Rwandan Women Taking Cases of Sexual Violence from the 1994 Genocide to Transitional Courts." PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2014.

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Executive Summary

Estimates state that 250,000 to 500,000 Rwandan women were raped in the 1994 genocide. International tribunals made subsequent progress in finding organizers guilty of rape as a war crime and act of genocide for the first time in the history of international law. However, very little is known about the court-related decision-making process of women survivors of these rapes who decided to testify in the local transitional courts, called “gacaca”. The results of this exploratory mixed methods study begin to fill that void by asking several key questions. First, what factors in Rwandan women’s lives related to their decision to take their cases of sexual violence to the gacaca courts? More specifically, is there an association between involvement in women’s programs and deciding to take one’s case of sexual violence to gacaca? How did survivors of sexual violence define “justice” and did this align with the type of justice provided by the gacaca courts? What suggestions do rape survivors have to improve these courts for survivors of sexual violence? Income, education level, social support, involvement with women’s organizations, sharing one’s story of rape in an all-women’s group, and opinions about the courts were explored as factors. It was hypothesized that all of these factors might have some relationship to the decision to take or not to take the cases to the courts and that the women might wish to have the courts provide greater access to reparations and to services for individuals who testify and their children.