16 August 2012

Rwanda: Gender-Based Violence Campaigns Paying Off

Residents of Rweru Sector in Bugesera District, Eastern Province say the educative programmes that have been extended to them have significantly helped to reduce Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases that used to breakup families.

They were speaking during an event organised by Health Development Initiative (HDI) to enlighten the population about human rights in avoiding and preventing GBV cases and HIV/Aids.

They said family heads and members are gradually taking on their responsibilities and respecting other people's rights.

"Things have completely changed as wives are now able to report if their husbands oppress them unlike before when even members of the community considered it wrong or being undisciplined towards the husband," said Tereza Mukarujanga, a resident.

The mother of five explained that, previously, reporting a husband would spark misunderstandings in the family that could even result into separation or divorce.

"Our husbands have also realised that we have equal rights and that the law can work against both of us in case there is violation of one's rights," another resident, Aline Mukandoli, said.

The meeting was also aimed at encouraging residents to report GBV cases after reports showed that some partners choose to keep silent and remain victims - something that might either result into divorce or indulging in extra marital affairs that could lead into contracting HIV/Aids.

The campaign that was held through drama by Inyambo Troupe actors led by renowned local actor, Ndjoli Kayitankore, better known by his stage name Kanyombya, also encourages residents to embrace HIV prevention measures.

Cassien Havugimana, the head of the programme at HDI, said the campaign will also extend to Nyagatare District with support from UN Women and UNAIDS.

"Our decision to first deal with these two districts based on records in the past that indicated high rates of GBV," said Havugimana.

He said the pilot project will cover five sectors in each district until it winds up in September.

Rwanda is listed among the countries leading the campaign against GBV with a strategic plan, decentralised GBV desks and the only country with a hospital - Kacyiru Police Hospital - that offers free medical services to GBV victims.

According to a police report released earlier this year, Gender Based Violence (GBV) related crimes increased by over 4.6 per cent last year to 3,585, up from the 3,427 registered in the previous year.

Gender officials attributed the upward trend to increased awareness campaigns that saw more victims report such domestic crimes.

According to the report, Kigali city then topped the list with 887 registered cases in 2011, but this decreased by 6.1 percent from the 945 cases recorded in 2010.

The Eastern Province with 860, Southern and Western provinces with 734 and 592 cases followed in that order, while the Northern Province with 513 cases filed the least offences.

Among the GBV crimes, defilement recorded 1,733 cases in 2011, up from 1,654 registered in the previous year. Assault and rape with 543 and 287, respectively followed.

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