Gender-based violence (GBV) is a case in point of addressing Rwanda’s post-conflict legacy by using innovative, context-relevant approach¬es. GBV was used as a widespread weapon of war during the 1994 Genocide and remains a significant security challenge today - RNP sta-tistics indicated 2,033 cases of GBV in 2006.
The RNP and Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) identify GBV as a serious security threat because it is a major obstacle to both the rights-based rule of law as well as sustainable development. To address GBV, the RDF and RNP have adopted the following measures.
Gender Desks: Both the RDF and RNP have established Gender Desks at Headquarters and focal points at decentralized levels to respond to GBV cases as well as coordinate awareness-raising and capacity building activities.
Training: In 2008, standard operating procedures on GBV were produced by the RNP, with inputs from community members and other stakeholders. Police station com¬manders have been trained in these procedures. In addition, curricula and training manuals on GBV have been developed and implemented in the two Rwandan police training centres.
These training programmes address appropriate meth¬ods for handling and investigating GBV-related cases, and some police have also received spe¬cialized training in psychosocial counselling for survivors. Since 2008, the RDF Gender Desk officers have conducted training on gender equality concepts, women’s human rights, and GBV for close to 5,000 RDF members (military officers, cadets at the military academy, ex-com¬batants and local defence forces and civilians, in three out of Rwanda’s five provinces.
Communication and Awareness-Raising
Both the RDF and RNP provide free hotlines to report GBV cases. The RNP Gender Desk engages in a broad-based campaign to raise awareness of GBV through outreach in church¬es, local authorities, women’s councils, primary, and secondary schools, and through media such as television, radio, brochures, calendars and posters.
The RDF also sensitizes the com¬munity against GBV through songs and drama that effectively convey messages on the role of men in ending GBV, challenge negative attitudes towards women and provoke a reflection on be¬haviour change in the population
Community- based Approaches
Community policing can also be very responsive to GBV, as Community Policing Committee members are able to approach local families where they know violence occurs, rather than waiting for the women to come forward.
GBV Police Officers as well as Community Policing Liaison Officers attest that the community dia¬logue processes have made women more aware of their rights, and that men are more reluctant to abuse their wives as they know that women may now go to the police.
The RDF has support¬ed the creation of community-based anti-GBV clubs from the neighbourhood to the sub-district levels, and has conducted two-week anti-GBV ca¬pacity building programmes for members since 2008.
The Gender Desk of the Rwanda National Police has joined with the Police Hospital, Gen-eral Prosecutor’s Office and other service provid¬ers to create a ‘One Stop Centre’ for survivors of domestic, child and gender-based violence at Kigali’s Kacyriu Police Hospital.
The Cen¬tre provides multi-sectoral support to survivors, where they are able to file their case, undergo a medical examination, receive psychosocial counselling and submit their legal cases to the General Prosecutor’s Office, with the support of specialized personnel, at no cost and all from the same location. A safe room is also available for temporary emergency accommodation.
Gender Mainstreaming in the Security Services
Reinforcing the security forces’ anti-GBV credentials are the gender mainstreaming measures that have been established within the RDF and RNP.
The RDF has committed to pro¬grammed increases of the proportion of women in recruitment, training and participation in all ac¬tivities including participation in peace missions abroad.
This is in direct response to the fact that Rwanda is a signatory to international conven¬tions such as CEDAW, the Beijing Declaration and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 which promote gender equality, respect for women’s human rights and increased women’s participa¬tion in peace-building.
So far 84 women soldiers in the RDF have served in peace missions abroad since 2004 and 35 women soldiers are currently on mission abroad
Strengthening Anti-GBV practices in Overseas Peace Support Operations
Rwanda’s success in raising awareness and build¬ing anti-GBV capacity in its security forces at home has had a positive spill over effect on the international peace support missions where Rwandan contingents have been deployed.
RDF battalions before deployment in peace keep¬ing operations are trained on SGBV with em¬phasis on Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) since women are the primary targets for perpetrators in conflict areas.
In Darfur, the RDF has trained local communities in building fuel-efficient stoves and helped them with tree-planting initiatives.
These innovative measures have meant that women and girls need not ven¬ture too far or too often from the safety of their homes to gather firewood for fuel where they are vulnerable to attack.
The increased interaction during these joint activities as well as the pres¬ence of women soldiers has also made women in local communities feel safer and more willing to report GBV cases.
The first all-female contingent of 90 police officers from Rwanda has just been deployed in Darfur as advisors on GBV – the first of its kind in Africa.