Collective efforts are necessary for a decisive fight against sexual violence, as well as child, early and forced marriages, the Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi said.
The Prime Minister’s message was contained in a speech delivered on his behalf by minister of Justice, Johnston Busingye on Tuesday at the official opening of the Working Session on Child, Early and Forced Marriage in conflict in Kigali.
“It is imperative that all countries adopt sustainable measures aiming at combating such harmful practices that impede human dignity and progress,” he said.
The meeting was organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Rwanda National Commission for Human Rights, and among others.
At least 700 million girls under 18 years of age, mainly from sub-Saharan countries, face a threat of being forced into early marriage, according to a UNICEF report of 2014.
He reiterated the role of National Human Rights Institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights in general, and especially their preventive, advocacy and advisory role towards the child, early and forced marriages.
He noted that National Human Rights Institutions in many countries have done a lot in this domain, but there is still room to extend the boundaries.
“I encourage all Commonwealth Human Rights Institutions to fully collaborate and give their concrete and effective contribution to the eradication of child, early and forced marriage. If we pool together it is doable,” said Murekezi.
He also reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to support the integration of the eradication of child, early and forced marriage in the post- 2015 sustainable development goals.
Forced and early marriages have been blamed on primitive culture and poverty, which compels some parents to treat their daughters as sources of wealth to the family.
In Rwanda, the threat is still there but there are no concrete statistics on early and forced marriages, according to Madeline Nirere, the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission.
In the speech, Murekezi cited several measures taken by the government to promote children’s rights and the fight against child, early and forced marriages.
These include setting up a full-fledged Ministry in charge of Gender and Family Promotion and other institutions, such as the National Commission for Human Rights, the National Commission for Children, the Gender Monitoring Office, the National Women Council, and the National Youth Council.
Rwanda is making its best possible contribution in protecting the rights of children and in fighting early and forced marriage, the premier said.
Rwanda’s Family Law puts minimum age of marriage at 21 years. Any person who knowingly plays any role in facilitation or enabling early or forced marriage of a minor shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of six months to two years and a fine of one hundred thousand to three hundred thousand Rwandan francs, according to the Rwandan Penal Code.
The meeting closes today with participants expected to draw a Kigali Declaration on early, forced marriage and sexual violence in conflicts. The resolutions will be discussed in November in Malta during the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (CHOGM).