Today in Rwanda, like anywhere else in the world, women and children are being targeted and are more affected by gender violence. The government of Rwanda plus many other stakeholders are doing everything possible to fight gender violence and to do this they are identifying causes and reasons why such cases are not reported.
The Minister of Gender and Family Promotion Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya last week opened a three-day workshop on violence against women.
She said that most of the victims of gender-based violence are unemployed women who cannot denounce such abuses because of too much economic dependency.
However, according to Therese Zeba Kobeane, a UNFPA representative here in Rwanda, the country has had the best progress on empowering women economically.
“In Rwanda, 36% of women work in government at different levels and are involved in decision making in the country and this has made them independent economically,” Kobeane said during the three-day workshop on violence against women.
She also said that this is being made possible because of the support from the government and the men in the country.
“Women in Rwanda have not done it alone; they are being supported by the government and the men who are convinced that these women are capable of developing the country,” Kobeane added.
The gender-based sexual violence that is occurring on a large scale is found in all societies to a certain degree and this is due to many factors. Discrimination and unequal power relations are the main cause of women’s greater vulnerability to violence.
What should be known is that this violence against women is a major violation of human rights that includes their rights to health and freedom from torture.
Many people believe that the main origin of the gender based violence is from our culture that was originally known to give more power to men, leaving women powerless.
Still many people argue that the main reason as to why there is an increase in violence against women is the economic imbalance.
Because of the difference in financial standing, women find it a problem to report husbands that commit violence against them.
This is because they are not financially stable and if the husband is reported and brought to justice, a question comes to mind of who should look after the family.
It is in this framework that this country’s assessment on gender violence has been undertaken in the Rwandan context to reveal and address violence against women.
In order to effectively fight gender violence especially that committed against women, we must first understand the extent of the violence and whether it is being reported. There are many types of gender violence committed in Rwanda today.
Sexual violence mainly being the rape of minors is the most critical form of violence, with female children aged five and female adolescents being the majority victims.
According to a survey carried out by the Rwanda National Bureau of Statistics, rape frequency was perceived high at 70% in Kigali City and in the Eastern province.
The perception matches that of the statistics from the national police which classify Kigali (656 cases) and the Eastern provinces (796 cases) among the top provinces where rape crime is high.
Unfortunately, these figures include only those cases reported to the police and the local authorities. Many cases of violence against women go unreported due to many reasons and this hinders the fight against the authors of the crimes.
Some see it as a waste of time to report these cases of violence because the authors are usually not punished. Other women fail to report the violence because they want to avoid humiliation by coming out to declare that they have been raped.
Whereas some women fear repercussions from their husbands, some do not report cases because they want to protect the authors who are mainly their husbands, sons or close relatives.
There is need to sensitize both the perpetrators and the victims on gender-based violence by first identifying the causes. Many of these crimes, according to the survey carried out by the national bureau of statistics, resulted from ignorance, drunkenness, sexual perversion and use of drugs.
However, though alcohol is cited as an influencing factor to violence against women, one would like to know why a drunken man should rather beat his wife and not anybody else.
This is a result of the social construction in which men are trained to see women as inferior and submissive to them, which sustains inequality of powers.
So to effectively fight gender violence, women should be both socially and economically empowered because the inequality of power causes violence as men abuse their socially acquired powers more often.
However, it should be noted that not all men are abusing their powers. Stern measures should be put in place to punish the perpetrators and to sensitize both the victims and the culprits. This is because some of the authors of these crimes do not know that they are committing them.
The deliberate use of rape and other forms of violence against women and girls is recognized as crimes of violence, and appropriate legislation has to be enacted. Abuse is not only physical, but may also be emotional, sexual or psychological.
So there is need to create awareness by sensitizing the masses on gender violence in order to curb it.