RE: “You can’t criminalise adultery and make defamation a civil offence” (The New Times, December 2).
It is also important to recall the statement by the UN Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice (see UN OHCHR, October 18, 2012) which expressed deep concern at the criminalisation and penalisation of adultery whose enforcement leads to discrimination and violence against women.
The statement recalled that almost two decades before, international human rights jurisprudence had established that “criminalization of sexual relations between consenting adults is a violation of their right to privacy and infringement of article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights...”
Rwanda is party to the Covenant, having acceded to it on April 16, 1975. Although not related to the issue at hand, Rwanda is also one of the few countries which have also acceded to the Covenant’s Second Optional Protocol—on December 15, 2008—aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
The Working Group called on governments which retain criminalisation of adultery or which allow imposition of fines, imprisonment, flogging, death by stoning or hanging for adultery, to repeal any such provisions. Thus, criminalising adultery would be counter to the recommendation of the recommendation of the Working Group regarding the proper application of an international instrument which our country is party to.
Adultery is a private consensual activity; criminalising it will not deter those who are inclined and have the opportunity or save marriages. The action will waste resources on litigation and policing this impossible prohibition.
In my view, adultery should facilitate divorce for the offended party.