Government will begin using DNA tests to pursue those suspected of defiling and impregnating underage girls, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairperson Madeleine Nirere said yesterday.
Nirere said this on the sidelines of the 11th biennial conference of the African National Human Rights Institutions that brought together participants from 10 countries to track the progress made and identify new opportunities since the adoption of the Kigali Declaration on the elimination of early and forced marriage in Commonwealth countries.
Nirere said that most victims of defilement fall between ages 11-18 adding that one of the key strategies to curb this vice was bringing those responsible to justice.
“Those who are defiled mostly fall between the ages 11 and 18. A study conducted by the Ministry of Gender, NHRC and other partners indicated that there were 17,000 unwanted pregnancies amongst underage girls in the country last year alone,” she said.
The rights commission boss added: “There is now a forensic laboratory in the and we are working hand in hand with other institutions to use DNA testing to bring those responsible to justice,” she said.
The National Children’s Council, the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, Gender Monitoring Office and the Police have lately been working together with regard to registration of newborn children, and the underage parents, and facilitating them to go back to school.
Nirere said that culture was still one of the challenges faced in the effort to eliminate defilement as some families still don’t report such cases because they think it’s shameful.
Nirere told the participants that in respect to the implementation of Kigali Declaration, the NHRC carried out a survey on child defilement in Rwanda in order to identify its main causes, its magnitude and effects, and perpetrators’ profiles.
The findings showed that most of the perpetrators were mainly relatives of the victims, educators and people who meet the youngsters on their way to or from school.
A two-year UNICEF-backed project involving the commission and the police had helped raise public awareness about the vice, she said.
The project targeted parents, teachers associations, taxi drivers, motorcyclists and sex workers. Altogether, 31,972 people were sensitised. The campaign covered 14,763 women and 17,209 men, Nirere said.
Namibia’s Ombudsman John Walters told the meeting that, like in many countries, child marriage exists in Namibia pointing out that in 2015 alone, thousands of girls were reportedly married off before they turned 18.
“Criminal law only deals with the consequences, what do you do when the girl already has three children and is begging you to spare the head of their household? It’s more important to deal with the root cause,” he said.