“Frailty – thy name is woman.” Words spoken by Hamlet, written by Shakespeare some 450 years
ago, these views still exist in our society despite our massive strides in women’s development.
The socio-economic empowerment of women is a central pillar of our development so far, Rwanda
has more women MP’s than any country, and our laws are being reoriented to help women.
However, our legal system is still interpreting modern laws through a conservative prism.
One lady battling for custody of her child after 6 years told me “you don’t know what it is
like to fight the system.” I wondered why a system with so many laws that favour women can be
viewed by some as anti-women. This is because the burden of evidence is stacked against the
woman, she has to prove she is mentally competent, she has to prove that she is not a whore,
she has to prove that she can provide for her children. No man ever has to prove this.
I viewed several cases and the judges without exception ruled in favour of the men, the women
were expected to hand over their children like they never gave birth to them. The men just
handed over the children to distant relations like they were orphans. The fundamental problem
is this, men have more rights than women, male relatives have more rights than female
relatives. We have such a loose definition of “father”, any elder male relative of a father is
called father, this abrogates the responsibility of the real father.
Women are less economically independent than men, therefore custody reverts to the father or
his relatives, we rarely enforce alimony and child payments so relatives are obliged to look
after them. Even if a woman has the economic means to support her children, she still has to
prove she is morally suitable to raise a child. I watched the ridiculous exchange of points of
law, article this, section that. Nowhere in that court did they mention the law of nature –
THAT A CHILD SHOULD BE WITH ITS MOTHER. Every legal system in the world has that as a
We put in new pro-women legislation but kept old misogynistic legislation, our law says that women have a right to custody, but it also says that a child can be separated from his mother at age 7, any child psychologist can tell you that inflicts permanent damage.
Even in the west, women face a hard task getting equal justice, in our family law we at least see a shift towards favouring the woman, but our legal system is yet to catch up.
I urge anyone who cares about women’s rights to go and view a child custody case – form your own judgement.