What will it take to break the wall of silence on sexual harassment?

A lab technician examines samples of sexual harassment victim at Isange One Stop Centre at Kacyiru District Hospital. Emmanuel Kwizera.

One day on a scary night in Mageragere Sector, robbers attacked a small family of one boy, a girl and their mother.

The attack was very serious as the robbers tied them up in different corners of the house.

They carried out their errand but on top of that raped the girl in the house without anyone being aware.

The girl, in turn, did not blow the whistle until she was found pregnant. 

After realising her pregnancy, she asked to be allowed to carry out an abortion which is illegal.

She promised the doctors at Kibagabaga Hospital where she was being treated that she will abort and die or be imprisoned instead of becoming a teen mother.

Luckily, she was counselled and now she is about to give birth.

This scenario triggered some activists and health experts to wonder why impregnated ladies, as well as women who faced GBV, do not easily break the silence.

As such, the Health Development Initiative (HDI) together with its stakeholders urge people to break the silence on gender and child abuse-related crimes in order to combat the vices and ensure that justice is served.

The call was made Tuesday during a meeting between HDI and partners like Isange One Stop Centre, National Women Council, MIGEPROF, Human rights activists as well as the media.

All the panellists kept emphasizing that women are not able to break the silence because of different reasons.

Doctor Athanase Rukundo, HDI program director said that a joint program they have with Imbuto Foundation, Access to Health and Society for Health foundations, they encounter children who are stigmatized which causes them not to reveal that they are pregnant and report the perpetrators.

“This vice is never reported as it should be, because among the research we did, we found out some families hide the fact that their girls were raped because they think that they will be blamed,” said Doctor Athanase Rukundo.

Some girls also fear to blow the whistle because they fear they could be chased away from home.

On the other side, as most of defilers are wealthy people, some victims tend to keep the secret so that the defiler helps them raise the baby or help cover daily expenses.

Christopher Sengoga is a Human Rights Officer who kept pointing out that money was one of the causes of the silence.

“One out of two people who are raped or violated are raped by people who are not their relatives. They hence do not disclose the information because they fear to cause the problem between the defilers and their families. However, some are paid to avoid disclosing the information,” added Sengoga.

The other reason cited why ladies are not free to disclose information on abuse is that in the Rwandan culture, it is considered shameful to claim rape or abuse, experts confirm.

According to Natacha Mugeni, a Health Coordinator at Kasha Rwanda, a modern e-Commerce platform for female healthcare and personal care products, violated ladies fear not getting a husband if they announced that they have been raped.

To avoid that, some girls carry out abortions, which is not only illegal but most of the times improper which can lead to health problems such as bleeding, uterus destruction, barrenness and death.

Gutter Marche Institute and the University of Rwanda carried out a research which indicated that 47 per cent of Rwandan teen pregnancies are unwanted. 

Some 22 per cent among those are aborted improperly whereas the government of Rwanda invests $ 1.7 million each year in the effects of unproper abortion.

Allen Atwine who was representing the City of Kigali urged parents not to stigmatize teen mothers or abused women because it can lead to suicide to killing the newborns.

However, abortion is an illegal act criminalized by the Rwandan Penal Code under article 124.

A person convicted of the crime is sentenced to one to three years and a fine of a hundred to Rwf300,000.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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