Teen pregnancies: Families covering up for culprits – officials

Students of Cyumba High School in Nyanza District train in gender based violence. / Sam Ngendahimana.

Efforts to reduce early pregnancies among underage girls are being undermined by parents who opt for out of court settlement with offenders instead of seeking legal redress, officials have said.

This came up on Tuesday in Musanze District during a meeting on child sexual abuse and teen pregnancies that brought together officials from Northern Province and civil society organisations.

Cases of defilement and teen pregnancies are rampant in the country.

According to statistics, at least 17,444 teenagers had unwanted pregnancies across the country in 2017m, many subsequently dropping out of school.

However, most of the victims are not getting justice due to community misconceptions about early pregnancy, according to the Governor of Northern Province, Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi.

“We still have a serious problem of parents who wrongly think that defiling an underage girl makes the offender their in-law,” he said. “They (parents) consequently do not wish to provide information on who defiled and impregnated their daughter, which is unfortunate as the culprits can’t be held accountable.”

“Most of these families try to reach a solution informally with the culprits but this is unacceptable and illegal,” he said.

We call on the communities, parents and victims to speak out when such violations occur so that culprits are brought to book, Gatabazi added.

A 2017 study by the umbrella body of human rights organisations in Rwanda (CLADHO) showed that parents of 28.45 per cent of defiled and impregnated girls sought to mediate with the offenders, while only 8.5 per cent received justice.

The chairperson of Rwanda Civil Society Platform, Jean Léonard Sekanyage, called for joint efforts right from the grassroots level to end early pregnancies.

He emphasised that information sharing is crucial in this effort.

Sekanyange said that civil society has already petitioned the Office of the Prime Minister to considerably step up the fight against early pregnancies, and to dedicate a budget to help look after babies born to teen mothers.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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