Rwanda National Police Gender Based Violence
Winning the war against Gender Based Violence
As the world celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women yesterday, it emerged that violence against women continues to be a global problem, despite the efforts to curb it.
According to the United Nations, 35 per cent of women and girls globally experience some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime with up to seven in ten women facing this abuse in some countries.
Worldwide, more than 700 million women were married as children, 250 million of whom were married before the age of 15, and an estimated 133 million girls and women have experienced some form of female genital mutilation.
Indeed, violence against women is still a serious issue and governments all over the world are grappling with the matter.
State of GBV in Rwanda
Rwanda on the other hand, performed well on issues related to women empowerment, and this involves the fight against gender based violence (GBV). As a result the country remains a reference point whenever referring to success stories of women empowerment.
According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2015, Rwanda was ranked sixth in closing gender gaps in the world.
However, despite these achievements, challenges still prevail and a lot remains to be done in order to achieve a society free of violence against women.
Statistics from Rwanda National Police show that cases of gender based violence have declined. Last year, 1433 defilement cases were handled by police, compared to 750 defilement cases recorded by police this year.
Rape cases have also dropped from 284 to 147 cases reported across the country in 2015. The same trend is noticed in the category of physical abuse where cases handled by police have reduced from 541 in 2014 to 320 this year.
In 2014 about 37 women were murdered by their husbands but this has also gone down to 22 cases this year. In 2014, 271 cases of women battering were filed but this has also reduced to 145 so far.
Allen Cyizanye, the in charge of monitoring the fight against gender based violence and other injustices at the Gender Monitoring Office, says that the positive trend shows that the government of Rwanda is determined to eradicate any form of gender based violence and child abuse through legal policy frameworks, and enforcement measures to ensure effective implementation.
Isange One Stop Centre, a specialized (and free) referral centre where survivors of gender based violence are rehabilitated, has been critical in this drive.
Also, government established Justice Bureaus in thirty districts to facilitate easy access to justice for the community, especially women and children, and are conducting legal literacy and provision of legal services.
Umugorobaw’ababyeyi, a platform at the village level has been instrumental in GBV fight. It brings parents together to discuss strategies that can help improve their relationships, and prevent and resolve conflicts that arise in their households, among others.
However, gender activists still argue that there are challenges especially the fear to report GBV by some victims.
“Despite efforts made in GBV prevention, there are still challenges that need to be addressed, such as limited reporting of violence cases, lack of evidence during the prosecution, low engagement of men in the prevention and response initiatives on gender based violence, among others,” Cyizanye says.
She notes that various measures are being devised to effectively handle issues of gender based violence.
She says, “There is continuous monitoring of service delivery to victims of gender based violence and child abuse and this will contribute to the timely response and provision of quality services to the victims. The scale up of the Isange One Stop Centre is also continuous and the standards of the already existing ones also continue to be upgraded depending on the emerging needs of victims.”
Within the global framework, Rwanda, is committed to achieving zero tolerance for GBV.
Edouard Munyamaliza, the executive secretary of Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC), says that the involvement of men in the fight against violence can definitely help achieve remarkable results.
He says that to achieve development, the first thing one has to realise is that fighting against gender based violence can be achieved through women empowerment.
Campaigns such as HeForShe call upon men to get involved in fights against such acts of gender based violence. Women empowerment is not enough if men don’t have a positive attitude towards it.
“Men should understand that the best way to be a real man is to actually support women. And men benefit too because if they change their own attitude towards women, they create positive and healthy ways to co-exist,” Munyamaliza says.
He adds that some men think that women empowerment is a threat to them, which is completely wrong.
“A man’s attitude is based on the traditional belief that a man has to be dominant and if a woman grows in power then it is a threat to his manhood, which isn’t the case,” he says.
Munyamaliza adds that for people to change their attitude and behavior positively; it is a slow and very long process.
RWAMREC works with men through workshops at the village level to help them reflect on their life experiences.
And with that, they will definitely challenge notions of masculinity that are violent and discriminatory.
“It’s only when you reflect on your own life that you are able to challenge yourself on the attitudes that need change,” he says.
Nicolette Nsabimana, the founder and director of Centre Marembo, an organisation that helps young girls that are sexually abused, says that efforts to fight violence against women are tremendous though the problem still prevails.
She says that cases are still high among young girls because they don’t know their rights, and can’t even fight for them.
“Laws against violence are indeed available in Rwanda but the implementation is still a challenge, so more effort is required. Another challenge is the follow up of cases of abuse; it’s really hard for those who commit crimes to get justice. Some cases are not attended to,” Nsabimana says.
Also, people need to be sensitized so that the fear of coming out in the event of violence is ruled out, Nsabimana adds.
Godance Mugeni, the president of TuraseKuntego, a cooperative that fights against gender based violence in Nyanza, says that cases of violence are present in their area.
She says it’s the same issue that triggered the need to start a cooperative to fight GBV.
“The start of the cooperative made a big difference, and cases of violence against women are indeed reducing. We have managed to achieve a lot and I hope that this will continue,” Mugeni says.
She adds, “We will continue urging women to stand up for themselves, help them know their rights and urge those who fear to speak out and get the courage to address violence.”
Any act of gender-based violence that results in physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women not only affects them but society at large. The fight against GBV is every one’s responsibility.