Rights have to be exercised with caution


The golden rule when it comes to human rights is that every human being, despite their gender, religion, level of education or place of origin, is sacred and inviolable. This means that everyone is entitled to freedom and respect from conception up to death.

There are special provisions for groups of people who are deemed vulnerable. For example, there are laws for the protection of the rights of children. The special provisions are sometimes abused by the people that they are meant to protect.

This goes against article 41 of the constitution of the republic of Rwanda which says that there are limitations to the way that rights and freedoms are exercised.

In this regard, article 41 of the constitution says that when one is exercising one’s rights and freedoms, one can only do so within the limitations provided by the law. An example of this, is children being insolent to their parents because they know it is illegal to punish them by way of caning.

That kind of behavior is not aligned with article 21 of N°54/2011 of 14/12/2011 the law relating to the rights and the protection of the child which states: “Depending on his/her understanding level, the child, must respect any human being, especially his/her parents or   guardian.”

Article 21 of the law relating to the rights and the protection of the child further says that children are supposed to help their parents or guardians according to their capabilities.   

Another aspect of the limitation of rights and freedoms in article 41 is that one must recognize and respect other people’s rights and freedoms. For example, it is unlawful to impose one’s religious beliefs on other people yet article 37 of the constitution says that everyone has the freedom of thought, conscience, religion and worship.

A person exercising their rights and freedoms must also be mindful of public morals, public order and social welfare. For example, article 38 of the constitution says that everyone has the freedom of expression.

However, article 38 goes on to add that this freedom should not “prejudice public order, good morals, the protection of the youth and children, the right of every citizen to honour and dignity and protection of personal and family privacy.” 

Article 46 of the constitution of Rwanda also provides a limitation to exercising rights and freedoms by stating that everyone must maintain good relations with others.

It says, “Every Rwandan has the duty to respect and consider his or her fellow beings without discrimination, and to maintain relations aimed at safeguarding, promoting and reinforcing mutual respect, solidarity and tolerance.”