A rape victim’s quest for justice should get us thinking

The victim worked as a waitress at the Kiyovu based restaurant Beijing Restaurant, owned by the alleged assaulter.

Two months ago, a young woman working as a waitress at a Chinese hotel in Kigali was allegedly raped by her employer – the proprietor.

Shortly after the incident, the victim reported the case.

She submitted evidence, including the necessary tests to Kacyiru District Hospital and also received counselling as is procedure.

The victim is, however, frustrated that the suspected rapist is free, going about his daily business, yet she and her family are still suffering from the after effects of the incident.  

The New Times visited the restaurant, Beijing Restaurant and Hotel, in Kiyovu and confirmed that the suspect, a Chinese national, was free though not at the premises at the time of the visit.

The victim, who could not keep her job at the hotel, confided in a family member, who - with consent - took to social media to demand quick delivery of justice.

“My cousin was tied down and raped by her boss in Kigali. She called police after and they reported immediately. She recieved medical care and evidence of rape was collected same day. It’s been more than two months today and she hasn’t been called to court.” Chantal Umuhoza wrote on her twitter account on Monday evening.

The reactions to the tweet came in fast, with the Minister for Justice, Johnston Busingye intervening and instructing the Prosecutor General to follow up.

The Prosecutor General, Jean Bosco Mutangana told The New Times in an exclusive interview yesterday that his office is following up on the case and the suspect was summoned by investigators, released, and re-arrested on his orders.

The suspect was later released.

The crime reportedly took place at the same hotel. She had only worked there for less than a month.

According to Chantal Umuhoza who spoke to The New Times yesterday, one of the painful things about the case, is that ever since they reported, they are hardly receiving any updates, except being occasionally asked to re-do tests.

The frustration was further heightened on realization that the tests conducted on reporting the incident had not been submitted to the investigators and prosecutors about a month after the incident

“I feel that the investigations by authorities has taken too much time and we know too little about it other than responding to requests for additional medical tests,” she said.

 “The incident occurred about two months ago and all this time, she [the victim] is traumatized and has not gotten any closure. It’s further traumatizing that she has been seeing the [alleged] assaulter going about his business freely without even informing us that bail had been granted,” Umuhoza added.

Umuhoza pointed out that it would be helpful, to victims and the society, if rape cases are expedited and information is availed to the victims on what is being done to seek justice.

This cases definitely raises questions on how rape cases and other sexual and gender-based crimes are dealt with.

Mutangana told The New Times that the case was still in the preliminary stages of gathering evidence and despite ordering his arrest, his office has to follow criminal procedures and rights of suspects, which include provisional release.

Mutangana explained that existing liberty clauses provide for provisional release, a decision that is in the hands of the Judges.

The suspect is said to have successfully applied for the release, a decision which prosecution has since appealed.

According to statistics from office of the Prosecutor, the conviction rate of cases related to sexual and gender-based violence is 90 percent.

The rate of conviction is of course high. However, the biggest challenge Rwanda has to deal with is encouraging victims to bring cases of abuse forward and supporting them.  

There is reluctance for reporting cases of sexual and gender-based violence for various reasons including; Stigma, blaming of victims and fear of bringing shame to self and one’s family.

This specific case has traces of blaming the victim.

As part of the investigation into the case, The New Times, visited the alleged crime scene and interacted with the staff at the hotel.

To their knowledge, their boss was released and case closed. One staff added that the victim was in an affair with the hotel owner - this is absurd and here is why.

It ignores research that three out of four rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.

And, the murky side of sexual assault and harassment associated with hotels, bars and restaurants as workplaces.

Whether the court eventually rules that the suspect is guilty or not, by bringing the case forward and to public attention, it is a slight win for victims of sexual assault and another wake up call that fight against sexual violence is long and complex.

Further reporting by Nadège Imbabazi.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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