Child marriage is a serious violation of human rights and the Rwanda society should be aware of the peril caused by underage pregnancies, especially to the future of juveniles.
Police say concerted actions will further ensure that abuses of minors are combated and perpetuators brought to justice, to prevent “possible threat to national development.”
Police in different parts of the country delivered the message as part of a nationwide campaign to tackle teenage pregnancy.
It is in line with a two-month national campaign launched by First Lady Jeannette Kagame, last week, on ‘Governance and Family Promotion,’ when she called upon all stakeholders to join efforts to curb child abuse such as child pregnancies and teenage marriages.
According to the 2014/15 Rwanda Demographic Health Survey, 7 per cent of women become pregnant between the ages of 15 and 19.
Early (women age 15-19) childbearing occurs more frequently among young women with a primary education (9 per cent) than among those with a secondary education or higher (4 per cent).
Under Article 194 of the Penal Code, any person who lives with a child as husband or wife is liable to the same penalty meted out on convicts of defilement, which is a life sentence.
Alexandre Minani, an inspector of police, while speaking to students of Gitebe, Muringa and Rubare secondary schools, reminded them of their rights, and warned that “adults responsible for having carnal knowledge with minors will be prosecuted accordingly.”
“Teen pregnancy is a serious issue and a violation of your rights; marriage is only allowed at the age of 21 and above. Early marriages and pregnancy are health risks both to the underaged mother and the baby... it’s an economic and social issue that you should stand up against and report it,” Minani told the students.
The World Health Organisation reports indicate that maternal deaths are higher in teenage mothers compared to older women.
“Many children of teenage mothers are unable to get education and they are likely to fall into poverty, creating a vicious cycle of early pregnancies, illiteracy and poverty, which can be hard to break,” he said.
Similar awareness programmes in schools were also held in Ecole Technique de Formation Professionnelle (ETEFOP) and Musanze Integrated Polytechnic College (MIPC).
During the interface, students also established anti-crime clubs. Teachers were urged to support and facilitate the clubs to achieve their intended agenda.