Prosecute men who impregnate teenagers, says civil society

Members of civil society organisations and religious leaders have appealed to the Government to launch an investigation into the people responsible for the country’s teenage pregnancies.
Safari speaks at the meeting. Courtesy.
Safari speaks at the meeting. Courtesy.

Members of civil society organisations and religious leaders have appealed to the Government to launch an investigation into the people responsible for the country’s teenage pregnancies.

The call comes after reports indicated 17,000 teenage girls were left pregnant last year alone.

Before that, a survey carried out in 10 districts across the country by CLADHO, the umbrella of human rights organisations in Rwanda, indicated that the issue is still alarming.

The assessment, carried out this year in 52 sectors of the country, revealed that 818 teenage girls got pregnant before they reached 18 years within a period of just two years.

The highest percentage of teenage pregnancies was recorded in Huye District (14.2 per cent), followed by Kicukiro District with 12.8 per cent, while the lowest percentage was recorded in Gicumbi District, with 6.2 per cent.

The 2014/15 Demographic and Health survey showed that teenage pregnancy rates in Rwanda increased from 6.1 per cent in 2010 to 7.3 per cent in 2015.

Addressing members of the Standing Committee on Political Affairs and Governance, last week, the representatives of the two groups said that for the issue of teenage pregnancies to be dealt with properly, there was need to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

The Executive Secretary of CLADHO, Emmanuel Safari, told the meeting that for teenage pregnancy to be dealt with, there was need for stringent measures.

“The law should pursue those who are suspected of having made these girls pregnant. We need to eliminate this issue of impunity where people commit crimes, are arrested by police and released in two days because there is no evidence. We need to have those suspected of such acts to be held and investigated,” he said.

Safari also expressed disappointment in families and local leaders who he said hush facts of the crime of defilement.

“Some leaders keep these cases a secret. Instead of reporting these cases, families prefer to have mediation yet the magnitude of this crime needs the involvement of courts of law. Mediation only undermines it,” he said.

He suggested that the fight against child abuse should be added onto Imihigo (performance contracts).

Profemme Twesehamwe’s Angelique Umulisa told those at the meeting that one of the areas that should be tackled in the fight against teenage pregnancy is the community’s mindset.

“There is need to change the mindset, the mentality of our community. You cannot achieve economic growth when the mind is stuck. The foundation of this teenage pregnancy issue is in the attitude of our community. If we fix that, there will be significant progress,” she said.

Umulisa blamed lack of coordination among the stakeholders concerned with the issue, adding that children are not an individual but social responsibility.

“There has been a lack of partnership between stakeholders yet whether you are a parent, a religious leader, a teacher, or any member of the society, this issue concerns us all. We see children misbehaving but we don’t say something, whether a child is yours or not. Being a parent means that all children in your community are your responsibility,” she said.

She also faulted parents for negligence, saying that due to busy schedules, most had forgotten their responsibilities.

Remera Miracle Centre’s Bishop Theobald Samedi said there is need for a comprehensive awareness campaign involving Police, religious leaders and other stakeholders.

“We can definitely use our platforms to influence change. However, this is the a worrying kind of crime and we need to rally everyone in this country to join in the fight,” he said.

Last week, the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, Madeleine Nirere, said the Government would soon begin to use forensic evidence, drawing DNA to determine the parenthood of the men involved.