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Intended Consequences: Rwanda's Children of Rape
April 20, 2009 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Intended Consequences. It is estimated that 20,000 children were born as the result of rape during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide that claimed the lives of over 800,000 Tutsis. Many of these women also contracted HIV/AIDS as a result. Not only do the mothers have to live with memories of this incredibly horrible event, but they along with their children are shunned by other Tutsi survivors.

Photographer Jonathan Torgovnik photographed and documented the stories of several of these women and their children in his new book Intended Consequences. He has also created Foundation Rwanda to help these families pay the $150 annual fee for their children's educations.

Disclaimer: The title of this post and some of the content is based on an article in the current issue of American Photo which is currently only in print and not yet online.
posted by itchylick (22 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
The scale and scope of this is really hard for me to comprehend and I don't know what to do other than give some money to the Foundation Rwanda. Just...
posted by Burhanistan at 12:45 PM on April 20, 2009


My god.
posted by Flex1970 at 12:51 PM on April 20, 2009


What is it about being poor that makes people flip out and mass rape/genocide other people? I guess I could see the evolutionary advantage of such.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 12:52 PM on April 20, 2009


What is it about being poor that makes people flip out and mass rape/genocide other people? I guess I could see the evolutionary advantage of such.

What is it about spoiled office workers that cause them to make horribly flippant and ignorant comments? I guess I can't really see the advantage of such.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:11 PM on April 20, 2009 [11 favorites]


No Small Mercy: How a Rwandan genocide survivor made peace with the man who almost killed her (Somewhat related)

I had meant to make a post about this, but this is as good of a place as any.
posted by zabuni at 1:24 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


What is it about being poor that makes people flip out and mass rape/genocide other people?

If you're genuinely interested, and not just being making a hideously inappropriate glib comment, then I do recommend Philip Gourevitch's We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda.
posted by liquidindian at 1:25 PM on April 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would also that the article I mentioned is a good look into the mind of someone who actually commited these crimes.
posted by zabuni at 1:25 PM on April 20, 2009


Check out whose birthday it is; you don't need to be poor to genocide.
posted by adipocere at 1:26 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


After seeing the main memorial and the mass graves which accompany it in Kigali, I never looked at the people again in the same way. My emotions were divided between compassion and contempt. Was I looking into the eyes of a victim, or a murderer? Or are they all victims?
posted by gman at 1:30 PM on April 20, 2009


Check out whose birthday it is

So it is. Weird.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:40 PM on April 20, 2009


If you're genuinely interested, and not just being making a hideously inappropriate glib comment, then I do recommend Philip Gourevitch's We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda.

I am genuinely curious. Care to summarize?
posted by norabarnacl3 at 1:41 PM on April 20, 2009


I would also that the article I mentioned is a good look into the mind of someone who actually commited these crimes.

That article was hard to read. Jesus Christ.

This is one of the most powerful things I've ever read, from Rebecca West. I think she's writing about the Balkans, but it applies here:

Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:45 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


What is it about being poor that makes people flip out and mass rape/genocide other people?

It's not a matter of being poor as such.

I think the quote from Rebecca West that A Terrible Llama quotes above is partly right-- we all, rich and poor, want to live to our 90's, live in peace, seek happiness, and want to live in comfort.

Attaining that is easier for some than it is for others. There are many reasons why one may think this is so -- money is one. Race is another. Or nationality. Or ethnicity. Or...any number of things. And some of these factors are true -- if you have money, it is easier for you to purchase the things you need for that life of comfort. (Mind you, it's also easier for you to consider more things as being essential to that life of ease, but we'll set that aside for the moment...)

And it's when you have trouble getting that kind of life that you may start wondering, well, why don't I get what I want? I do all the right things, don't I? I work, don't I? I do all the things I'm supposed to do, and yet I'm still not as far ahead as I wanted. What could be the reason for that?....some of the people who ask this question turn inward; they need a better job/better education/better conditions to live in, and they work to attain that. Others, however, fall prey to blaming someone else for the reason they're a have-not; "the reason I don't have a good job is because someone else took it. If they weren't around, I'd be the one with that good job."

Take that kind of thinking and escalate it through generations of conditioning, or desperation on your part, and eventually something explodes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:57 PM on April 20, 2009


Now that I've crawled back out of my dark corner and stopped rocking by myself after watching that video...

It's stunning to me. I cannot fathom what it must be like to have lived through something like this, let alone to have birthed a reminder. The children who are not welcome because they are products of this horrible time, I weep for them. I weep for the women who find the courage to talk, and even more for those who are broken beyond speech.

Mostly, I'm really fucking pissed off that it was allowed to happen. I really haven't thought through my opinions about my country interfering in the internal affairs of another, but Jebus!

Is this similar to what we are allowing to happen in Darfur?

I will probably wake up screaming having dreamt of that footage of a man hacking another person to death.
posted by hippybear at 2:09 PM on April 20, 2009


Also: A womans work, NYT 2002. It's just bloody horrible stuff:

In an interview at the State House in Kigali, Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame, talked about the mass rapes in measured, contemplative sentences, shaking his head, his emotions betraying him. "We knew that the government was bringing AIDS patients out of the hospitals specifically to form battalions of rapists," he told me. He smiled ruefully, as if still astonished by the plan.
posted by monocultured at 3:34 PM on April 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is this similar to what we are allowing to happen in Darfur?

Unfortunately yes, and also in the DRC where estimates put the number of rapes at 42,000 in South Kivu and 45,000 in North Kivu respectively. Per year.

In fact Major General Patrick Cammaert, the former UN Peacekeeping Operation commander in the DRC has said that it is now more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern conflict.

Rape is used as a weapon of war to humiliate, to terrorize, to divide (many women are rejected by their families and/or communities after being a victim of rape), and even to purposefully change the ethnic makeup of a given area.

And sadly as this piece shows, there is still a long way to go before justice is served for the victims, and for their voices to be heard in the peace and reconciliation process.
posted by vodkaboots at 3:51 PM on April 20, 2009


We also have to remember that this is ongoing in the Congo. This war never ended; it just moved to the Eastern DRC, where the same dynamics are in play have been for over a decade now, and the death toll, sexual violence, and HIV rates are staggering. In my work I met many children who were forced, as soldiers, to commit countless rapes, who carry AIDS and are shunned as both perpetrators and as victims, and who, remarkably, find ways to get up in the morning, to survive, heal, and in some cases, to help others to heal. I met young survivors of rape who worked to try to remove the stigma surrounding them, and I met children who'd escaped the genocide in Rwanda, only to find the war in the Congo erupt around them, and who had, someone, kept hope for their future. They are remarkable people.

Telling these stories is an essential step, so thank you for this post. Provoking the international political will to stop these atrocities in the Congo is the next step. Urge your government to support more resources for MONUC, the peacekeeping mission in the Congo, so that the perpetrators of these crimes can be caught or killed and the conflict can at last come to a close, and for NGOs working to mitigate the worst of the suffering. And Learn more. There is a lot you can do, even just by how you shop. Read Can You Hear Congo Now? Cell Phones, Conflict Minerals, and the Worst Sexual Violence in the World for a look at how this conflict has continued since shifting from Rwanda to the Congo and how we might be complicit in it.

Now I need a stiff drink...
posted by cal71 at 3:53 PM on April 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


I am genuinely curious. Care to summarize?

Summarize? No. I wouldn't dare. Far too complex, and I read it too long ago for me to try without messing up. The problem in understanding what happened, though, lies in our need for heroes and villians, victims and persecutors, and looking for a need for a simple narrative. The problems go back to at least 1931, when Belgium issued identity cards that strictly divided the Hutus and Tutsis. But before then the German colonialists began this process of division, so it goes back to 1900.

The wikipedia entry here gives an overview, but if you can read that and feel you have a full understanding of the causes of the genocide, you're a better person than me. No doubt poverty played some part. I wouldn't dare comment on the sociobiology side. So you're not wrong as such, it's just much much more complex than that.
posted by liquidindian at 4:17 PM on April 20, 2009


No doubt poverty played some part.

Not an argument with your point... I just don't see how we can watch this footage and classify these people as "poor." Assuredly, compared to even the poorest Americans, they appear impoverished. But is that a fair rubric to use? I see people with houses, who don't look underfed...

I've never been to Africa, but recently have been watching The First Ladies Detective Agency on HBO, set in Botswana. Some side reading I did about the production says that the series depicts a prosperous African country, and that it is set in its capital city. The series was filmed on location, so I'm sure this isn't some false sense of how life is there. But when I watch the series, my American eyes see people cooking over open fires, see unpaved roads more than pavement, see characters wearing the same clothes repeatedly, I assume because they own a limited supply.

Yes, these are fictional characters, but my understanding is that the filmmakers went to lengths to reflect the true Botswana in their production. Yet it looks poor to me.

Sometimes poverty isn't what we think it is here in the land of too much.
posted by hippybear at 4:52 PM on April 20, 2009


Not an argument with your point... I just don't see how we can watch this footage and classify these people as "poor." Assuredly, compared to even the poorest Americans, they appear impoverished. But is that a fair rubric to use? I see people with houses, who don't look underfed...

You're right, of course. I think that part of the Hutu/Tutsi divide could be seen as a 'class' divide as well as an ethnic, with wealth inequally distributed, but that doesn't necessarily mean 'poverty'. Again, I don't know enough.
posted by liquidindian at 5:08 AM on April 21, 2009


I don't know enough.

Ditto. I'm extrapolating without real information. (and trying to wake up my American mind to the fact that hardly anyone else in the world lives like we do.)
posted by hippybear at 12:04 PM on April 21, 2009


I've studied a bit about Rwanda, and there are some other factors to consider. One important one is how crowded the country was, and how much farmland there was per family - it was getting to where a well-off family would have, say, more than two acres on which to grow food to feed themselves. Most had less.
Families in Rwanda typically have a lot of children, like 4-8. Inheritance of family farming land became hugely, hugely contentious. It used to be traditional to leave it all to the oldest son, but parents started dividing it up, partly because youngest sons traditionally would take care of the parents as they got old (so they wanted to make sure he had land to feed them with). So then the oldest son would get married and they would measure out and give him some land, and then the other kids would get angry - what if the family has to sell land? Then we won't get as much as he did - that sort of thing. And as these farms got smaller and smaller, that's what happened. Families would sell off land because they were having trouble feeding the family during a bad year. Better-off families who had two acres or more would have extra produce to sell, and then they could buy people's land adjacent to theirs when it became available.
As this went along, it tore up families and pitted neighbor against neighbor. Hideous lawsuits brought by children against parents, nephews against aunts and uncles, filled up the courts and turned into family feuds. Envy of the family up the road who could afford shoes for their kids turned into hatred, coming from families whose kids were barefoot.
The people who committed the murders during the genocide often knew their victims, and had long-standing grievances against them - real or perceived injustices, or just dire envy.
And that's on top of the historical racial issues.

As I recall, Roméo Dallaire thought that with enough troops he could have stopped the genocide as it caught fire around him. But the more I've read about it, the less sure I am that it could have been stopped. Meaning no disrespect to him, mind you. He did an incredible job with what/who he had. It's just that it was everywhere all at once, practically.
posted by ysabella at 1:50 AM on April 22, 2009


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