Lack of compensation for the damage caused to defiled children is one of the factors discouraging them from exposing their offenders, activists observed. Rather than reporting their abusers and failing to receive any support, some victims choose to defend them due to economic constraints. It is estimated that only a very small fraction of defiled children – less than 1 per cent – get compensation, according to Evariste Murwanashyaka, Programme Manager at the Umbrella of Human Rights Organisations in Rwanda (CLADHO). He was reacting to one of the findings of the National Commission for Human Rights’ 2021-2022 activity report, which indicates that few compensation cases for defiled children are lodged in courts. The commission was recently presented to Parliament by its Chairperson, Marie-Claire Mukasine. According to the report, the number of sex-based violence cases is still high, especially those committed against children – below age 18 – and the number of cases for which civil actions are filed (for compensation) is very low. Murwanashyaka said the fact that many defiled children do not get compensations, discourages others from exposing their offenders because they will not get any support if the offender is sentenced to 25 years in prison [after conviction by court]. “The victim can say that the offender has been giving them Rwf1,000 or Rwf2,000. If he is imprisoned, she worries about not getting compensation for the crime he committed against her hence suffering with her child. Some choose to keep silent instead of taking legal action,” Murwanashyaka said. He also pointed out cases where a person who [allegedly] impregnated the victim is arrested and when it is time to carry out a DNA test [to establish whether he is the offender], she brings a different child, for the DNA to show that he is not the biological father. CLADHO started an initiative to support defiled children in getting compensations, but it only helps about 100 children per year because of limited financial means-a lawyer is paid Rwf500,000 (for one case) to represent a child in court. In article 10 of the law relating to the criminal procedure that was enacted in September 2019, a civil action may be instituted by any person aggrieved by an offence. However, legally constituted organisations whose mission is to defend victims of offence or competent government institutions entrusted by law may act on behalf of the victim to institute a civil action. The commission said in the report that it found the number of victims who institute civil actions is very small compared to the related criminal cases. It revealed that among 44 interviewed people who were inflicted sex-based violence, 5, representing 11.3 per cent of the total, had filed civil cases for compensation. Factors impeding compensation The aforementioned report showed that some of the sexual violence victims are unaware of what the legislation provides on civil actions, and that this is one of the challenges identified as impeding compensation cases. There were also inadequate legal aid services [as the number of defiled children who need lawyers far exceeds the available legal aid capacity]; and the fact that sexual violence offenders do not have (financial) means, which makes the victims think that there is no interest in instituting civil actions. Another reason is that there are delays in ruling the related criminal cases, which also delays the filing of civil actions. “The commission realised there is a need for sensitisation on the right to access fair compensations for the victims of sexual violence, and encouraging them to file cases to this end,” Mukasine said. Murwanashyaka said that another factor is that the prosecution loses in some of these cases mainly because of lack of evidence, indicating that a civil action is not possible after the connected criminal case was lost. Indeed, the report found that because of lack of evidence, thousands of defilement cases that the National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) receives are not taken to courts for trial, thus, offenders are not punished. It showed that in 2020-2021, NPPA received 5,278 cases of sex-based violence committed against children (aged below 18 years), but 2,271 or 43 per cent of the total, were not taken to courts.