Know your rights: The right to protection from mistreatment and torture

Every child is entitled to a safe childhood in which he/she has physical, mental, spiritual and emotional wellbeing.
 
Parents, guardians, members of society and the Government have a duty to ensure that nothing tampers with a child’s safety. This is in accordance with article five, paragraph two of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) which states that all the countries that signed the charter must “ensure, to the maximum extent possible, the survival, protection and development of the child.”
 
Article 16 of the ACRWC specifically renounces child abuse and torture of any form, be it physical or mental. It mandates countries like Rwanda which signed the charter to take all the measures possible to protect children from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, including neglect and sexual abuse.
The implementationof protective measures against child abuse and torture, according to article 16 of the ACRWC, is done by putting up special monitoring units to provide necessary support to children. These units are meant for preventive measures but also for identification, reporting and investigation of any mistreatment or cases of child abuse and neglect.
 
It is generally assumed that children are loved and protected within their families. That is why in Rwanda and many other countries, the family is the most important unit. Article 25 of N°54/2011 of 14/12/2011, the law relating to the rights and protection of the child, gives the sole responsibility of a child’s wellbeing to his/her parents or guardians.
Article 25 additionally states that in the process of educating a child, any punishmentgiven “must not consist in traumatising him/her; it is done with humanity and dignity.”
 
If a child is being mistreated by his/her family through violence, incapability to provide care because of parents’ mental disability or if the parents have been deemed incompetent, the child may be taken away. This is according to article 27 of the law relating to the rights and protection of the child.
Every member of society has the duty to denounce violence against children. This is according to article 28 of the law relating to the rights and protection of the child. This means that a person who witnesses ill-treatment or violence against a child has the duty to report to the authority in charge of child placement or to the nearest police post.
 
Crimes committed against children result in heavy penalties under the Penal Code of Rwanda. A person who is found guilty of inflicting suffering on a child, harassing them or punishing them severely receives a minimum jail term of six months. However, if the mistreatment results in disability, the culprit goes to jail for at least five years. If it results in death, the punishment is life imprisonment. 
 

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