Rwanda has in the recent past stepped up the fight against Gender Based Violence (GBV) and child abuse.
However, the number of cases registered are still relatively high, according to latest figures.
The figures were made public during a countrywide awareness exercise against gender-based violence and child abuse in August.
The campaign was spearheaded by the Rwanda National Police (RNP) in partnership with the ministries of Gender and Family Promotion, Justice, and Health.
The month-long campaign was conducted under the theme; “Act together in Prevention and Response to GBV and Child Abuse.”
It was organised under the scale-up of Isange One-Stop Centre model which started in 2009 as a pilot project at Kacyiru Police Hospital.
According to figures from the RNP, anti-GBV and child protection directorate, a total of 3,127 cases of defilement were registered between 2012 and 2013. At least 325 cases of rape were also recorded in the same period.
Twenty-five men were also killed by their spouses and 67 women killed by their husbands in the same period.
Between July and August this year alone, 567 cases related to GBV and child abuse were reported across the country, where 12 people were killed and over 60 others seriously assaulted either by their spouses, neighbours or relatives.
Statistics further indicate that between 2006 and 2011, RNP investigated and handled 12, 992 cases of SGBV.
In broad terms, gender-based violence is violence directed at an individual based on their sex, gender identity, or perceived adherence to socially defined norms of masculinity and femininity.
In Rwanda, the vice is said to be caused by gender inequality, ignorance, male chauvinism, drug abuse and property conflicts, among others.
“The majority of cases we receive at Isange are related to gender and child abuse, and we found it necessary to engage the public in order to prevent such incidences,” said Chief Inspector of Police, Shafiga Murebwayire, the coordinator of Isange.
“We believe there are still many women and children out there that are still facing these challenges and we want everyone to know their rights, open up and report challenges they face in their homes and communities to ensure that justice is served,” Murebwayire said.
The centre, established by RNP with the support of the First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, and One-UN Rwanda, has since received about 70, 000 cases and plans are underway to scale it up in all district hospitals across the country by 2017.
Isange provides free psycho-socio, medical and legal services to adult and child survivors of gender-based violence and child abuse.
“This annual awareness is, therefore, meant to ensure that Rwandans understand their role in fighting these human rights abuses and to give hope to survivors. We want families to learn how best to address their domestic issues and report to police in time to ensure that justice is served and victims given holistic care including medical and legal,” CIP Murebwayire adds.
Supt. Belline Mukamana, the head of RNP Anti-GBV and Child Protection directorate, said GBV has diverse negative consequences, including unplanned pregnancies, unsafe abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, psychological trauma, family conflicts, death and physical disabilities.
“It is an obstacle to peaceful relations in families and communities. This annual campaign, therefore, aims at increasing community awareness on gender issues and response by police and justice systems,” she said.
The Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion says Rwanda’s achievements in response to incidences of sexual and gender violence and child abuse are encouraging.
“Rwanda has shown strong political will to prevent and fight Gender Based Violence. The Constitution was amended to include a gender dimension that covers SGBV, among other issues. The country has also ratified regional and international conventions and implemented legal and policy frameworks to help tackle the vice,” the Minister for Gender and Family Promotion, Oda Gasinzigwa, said.
The ministry, she said, works closely with other public and private institutions like police to collectively implement local and international laws on anti-SGBV and child abuse.
The international and regional conventions include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (1979), and the Platform for Action adopted at the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995).
Rwanda’s legal reforms, adopted in 1999, also gave women and girls property rights, including the right to inherit land from their parents.
The awareness campaign, Gasinzigwa said, have been vital in breaking the silence and bringing to light challenges faced by women and children in their families and communities.
In 2010, RNP and RDF organised a high level international conference in Kigali on the role of security organs in thje fight against gender-based violence.
This was in line with the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325/2000 on women peace and security.
Resolution 1,325 urges all actors to increase the participation of women in conflict resolution, peacekeeping and incorporate gender perspectives in all United Nations peace and security efforts.
Rwanda is among the few countries that have an elaborated action plan on the implementation of the resolution.
It is also among the countries with a bigger number of police officers in peacekeeping missions. Female police officers comprise about 20 per cent of the total force and the Force is striving towards achieving the government recommended minimum of 30 per cent, according to Supt. Pelagie Dusabe, the director of gender promotion at RNP.
“RNP has created a pool of female officers, put in place a Gender desk which advocates for gender promotion and a directorate for gender mainstreaming in all initiatives and programmes within the RNP. This is aimed at strengthening the role of the RNP in addressing gender issues affecting their female members, the police force and the nation at large,” she said.
In 2001, RNP established a ‘Child and Protection Unit’ that was later upgraded to a ‘Gender Desk’ in 2005.
In order to comprehensively investigate cases of SGBV and conduct mass campaigns to fight and prevent the vice, the Force, in 2011, upgraded the desk to a fully-fledged ‘Directorate of Anti-GBV and Child Protection.’
“All these reforms have significantly impacted not only on women’s lives, but the Rwandan society as a whole. They have created a strong sense of worth that comes as a direct result of restoring the dignity and purpose of women in our country,” Dusabe said.
The RNP also established toll-free hotline; 3512 through which victims or witnesses seek help and report cases.