Weekend Reading

This is not uplifting, heartwarming stuff. This is not release, or catharsis. At best, “Portraits of Reconciliation” is terrifyingly willing to place the burden of reconciliation on the bodies of the victims, and then to call it progress when they show, by gestures of intimacy with the perpetrators, that they have gotten over it, moved on. But, for me, everything disturbing about this story gets crystallized in the overwhelmingly gendered narrative these photos tell—all the “perpetrators” are men, and seven of the eight “survivors” are women—while the word “rape” is screamingly absent from the article and the framing.

This omission is glaring, absurd, and obscene. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 women were raped in the course of the genocide—though who really knows? It could be much higher—and sexual violence against women was as central to the genocidal project as lethal violence against men. “Rape was the rule, and its absence the exception,” as U.N. Special Rapporteur on Rwanda Rene Degni-Segui put it, and it is important to come to terms with that fact: leaving women alive to rape them was as much a part of the genocide as killing them.

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