Religious leaders have said they need to have more involvement in policy formulation to be able to help in the popularisation of policies among citizens.
The clerics said this during a consultative meeting with officials from the Gender Monitoring Office (GMO) and Rwanda Governance Board in Kigali on Wednesday.
The meeting sought to discuss the role of religion in promoting gender equality and fighting gender based violence.
According to GMO, while over 90 per cent of Rwandans believe in God and have religious denominations they belong to they belong to, society is still faced with issues of defilement, human trafficking, domestic violence, unintended pregnancies among others.
Clerics were therefore urged to play their role to mitigate the vices.
Clerics said they support gender equality in society as the Bible and Koran do not discriminate women in any way.
But they added that it was hard to sensitise the faithful on certain policies for which they have no knowledge about.
They cited the family law which grants women equal rights and obligations with men among those that needed their input.
Article 206 of the family law stipulates that “spouses have equal rights and obligations.”
“The government says it values religion but if you really value us, why do you establish laws without consulting us and seeking advice from us?” posed Canon Antoine Rutayisire, of Remera Anglican Church and the chairperson of Rwanda Leaders Fellowship.
Rutayisire noted that it is always easier to change the law but harder to implement it, especially in a patriarchal society.
He observed that at the moment the world is dominated by the feminist movement arguing that men should stop being the head of the family, but, as religious leader, while he supports gender equality he would not want to sound contradictory.
He noted that there is no doubt that women can also head families as some are involved in developmental activities which later are attributed to men but added that this does not necessarily have to be legislated.
“Now the laws were revised but people’s mindset is still the same because of our patrimonial system. Let us first deal with mindset,” Rutayisire said.
Father Leonard Mugenga, the secretary general of Episcopal Catholic Youth Mission, said other than having laws granting spouses equal rights and responsibility, there is need for awareness on gender equality.
“God created a man and woman equal and we believe in this. However, each has their own responsibility, we are committed to promote that kind of gender equality through our various channels such as family commission and Caritas-Rwanda, among others,” he said.
Ustah Kayitesi, the deputy CEO of Rwanda Governance Board, admits that religions have influence and clerics can easily sensitise their followers on government policies and laws.
She, however, said clerics are normally involved in the process of formulating various laws and policies including the family law, whose discussion reached local levels.
‘‘The family law has been discussed for three years and it would be a problem if you have no knowledge about it, those ideas you are sharing should have been provided when it was being discussed.’’
Jean Paul Kabera, the Deputy Chief Gender Monitor at GMO, said there is need for a mindset change at individual and institutional levels.
“We all need to change our mindset before we can change society. We all need to work together and religious leaders have to understand their role in promoting gender equality,” he added.