Law against endangerment of children

Children, much like other human beings are sacred and inviolable. For this reason, the Penal Code of Rwanda prohibits endangerment of children and prescribes punishments for such crimes.

Article 218 of the Penal Code of Rwanda for instance forbids “inflicting severe suffering on a child, harassing or imposing severe punishments on him/her.” The punishment for this crime is a term of imprisonment of six months to two years or a fine of one hundred thousand to three hundred thousand Rwandan francs.

If the suffering, harassment or severe punishment results in disability, the maximum punishment is a term of imprisonment of seven years and a fine of one million Rwandan francs. If the child dies, the person responsible is imprisoned for life.

Another form of child endangerment that the Penal Code prohibits as stated in article 219 is offering alcoholic beverages or tobacco to a child. Furthermore, it is illegal to involve children in the sale of such products or to encourage children to drink alcoholic beverages, go to bars or smoke.

The minimum punishment for a person who commits the above-mentioned crime is a term of imprisonment of three months and/or a fine of three hundred thousand Rwandan francs.

The punishment for endangering child’s lives by involving them in the trade of illegal items such as narcotic drugs is much more severe than that of involving them in drunkenness. Article 220 of the Penal Code statuses a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, and a fine of five million Rwandan francs for such crimes.

If someone exploits a child by involving him/her in armed conflict, the minimum term of imprisonment is more than five years while the maximum is fifteen years, depending on the circumstance. Transnational conflicts carry the heaviest punishment. This is according to article 221 of the Penal Code.

Exploiting a child by involving him/her in sport activities that are harmful to his/her health is another form of child endangerment that the Penal Code prohibits. According to article 222 of the Penal Code, any person who is found guilty of committing this crime is “liable to a term of  imprisonment of three  (3) years to five (5) years and a fine of  five hundred  thousand (500,000) to  one million (1,000,000) Rwandan francs.”

Another way that someone can endanger a child, according to article 223 of the Penal Code, is refusing to surrender the child to a person who is legally responsible for him/her. Such a person can be imprisoned for a maximum period of six months.

Article 224 of the Penal Code illegalizes the abduction of a child from the place where the child habitually resides, even when it is done by either parent. In fact, a parent who abducts their own child receives a higher punishment than another person who commits the same crime.

Another severe form of child endangerment is adopting a child with the purpose of trafficking. Thus, article 225 of the Penal Code provides an equally severe punishment, especially if the child in question is below fourteen. In this case, the minimum punishment is a term of imprisonment of ten years and a five of ten million Rwandan francs.

Articles 226, 227 and 228 of the Penal Code prohibit refusal to provide care to a child, child neglect without reasonable cause or because of a child’s sex. All these crimes are punishable under the Penal Code.