On January 15, two sibling girls aged one and four, were beaten by their father so much they could neither walk nor sit.
The assault, in form of “punishment”, stemmed from the delay of the four-year-old, whose mother had sent to buy a matchbox at a nearby shop.
The father, identified as Prosper Uwimana, of Bweramvura Cell, Kinihira Sector of Ruhango District, was not at home at the time the young girl was sent to buy the matchbox. On his return, however, he asked the wife on the whereabouts of their first born d, the latter said she had sent her to the shop…only that she had delayed.
Uwimana didn’t take this lightly. The young girl, on her return, was severely beaten. Things turned worse when the wife intervened to save her daughter from the father threatening to take the matter to police if he went ahead with the corporal punishment. Instead, Uwimana went rogue, grabbed their one year daughter and severely caned her as well, apparently to show the wife that he’s the “authority” at home.
The girls are currently admitted at Gitwe Hospital with bruises on their head and body.
According to Chief Inspector of Police (CIP) Christine Uwamahoro, the director of Anti-GBV and Child Abuse Directorate at Rwanda National Police (RNP), this is among many abuses children face in their homes and communities, some of which are not reported by family members.
This is true basing on the fact that this is not the first time Uwimana has brutally beaten his daughters, as reported by her wife and mother of the girls, to police.
A medical report indeed showed that the latest beatings added injury to the wounds the girls had sustained earlier at the hands of their biological father.
“I had decided to keep silent on these abuses thinking that we would work it out, but I had lied to myself, and I blame myself for what’s happened to my daughters,” said the mother.
CIP Uwamahoro said most abuses directed at or faced by children manifest in form of defilement, corporal punishment, abandonment and infanticide, among others.
“Children are vulnerable and prone to other forms of abuse, be it physical, psychological or emotional, but, unfortunately, those supposed to protect them are the same people abusing them or protecting the abusers,” said Uwamahoro.
According to Supt. Shafiga Murebwayire, the director of Isange One Stop Centre, which provides free medical, psycho-socio and legal services to victims of GBV and child abuse, child abuse related cases account for at least 65 per cent of the over 10, 000 cases handled by Isange centre since its establishment in 2009.
“We urge everyone who witnesses any form of child abuse to report it. The general public has a major role to play in identifying and fighting these abuses by ensuring that each and every culprit faces justice, and victims receive all the necessary medical care,” says Supt. Murebwayire.
RNP, in partnership with its partners, including the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, in December last year, launched a standard operation manual for Isange centres, which ensures uniformity of specific services and procedures offered at all such centres countrywide.
Currently, Isange services are established in 28 district hospitals across the country and there is a plan to have them in all the 44 hospitals and 512 health centers countrywide.
“Akagoroba k’ababyeyi (parents’ forums), partnership with the media through talk-shows, mobile Isange centre and Police stations, community awareness, and formation of anti-crime clubs in schools and communities, have played a big part in fighting the vice and identifying where the problem exists,” says Uwamahoro.
The regional centre of excellence against GBV and child abuse, located at the RNP headquarters in Kacyiru, is one of the strategies in the fight against child abuse.
It has so far hosted training for staff of hospitals that host Isange centres and police officers operating in those centres on the uniformity in approaching and handling GBV and child abuse cases.