Rwandan women no more: female genocidaires in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide

Erin Jessee

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Following the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the current government – the predominantly Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) – arrested an estimated 130,000 civilians who were suspected of having some degree of criminal responsibility in the massacres and related atrocities that had ravaged the nation. Of these, approximately 2,000 were women, a cohort that remains rarely researched through an ethnographic lens. This paper begins to address this oversight by analyzing ethnographic encounters, including formal and informal interviews and casual conversations with eight female génocidaires from around Rwanda who had confessed to or were convicted of crimes during the 1994 genocide. I find that while female génocidaires endure various forms of gender-specific discrimination for having violated taboos related to appropriate conduct for Rwandan women, low-level génocidaires – those with minimal education, wealth, and social capital – were more likely to reference experiences of gender-based discrimination, often as a means of minimizing their crimes during the 1994 genocide and asserting claims of victimization. Conversely, high-level female génocidaires – those political and social elites who helped orchestrate or incite violence – seemed more resilient to gender-based discrimination, drawing upon a range of political and historical arguments when asserting claims to victimization in the post-genocide period. This difference in narrative is likely informed by high-level female génocidaires’ active participation in the political processes that made the 1994 genocide possible, as well as historical precedence for leniency where the actions of female political elites are concerned.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-80
Number of pages21
JournalConflict and Society
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015
EventApproaching Perpetrators: Ethnographic insights on ethics, methodology and theory - Vancouver, Canada
Duration: 14 May 201416 May 2014


  • Rwanda
  • perpetrators
  • genocide
  • gender norms
  • transitional justice
  • women
  • elite
  • génocidaire


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