The New Times (Kigali)

22 October 2012

Rwanda: Awareness Key to Fighting Child Abuse

editorial

Last week, we published a disheartening story of a 12-year old Diane Ingabire, from Gicumbi District, who was found emaciated, tied, rolled up in a mat, and locked in room by her step mother, for close to a month. Her story drew a lot of criticisms and sympathies from many people.

Rwanda was one of the first countries in the world to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, whose core principles include ensuring that children meet their basic needs, are protected from any form of violence, abuse and exploitation, among other things.

In 2011, the Government established the National Commission for Children mandated to promote children's rights, and developed a plan of action to protect children from abuse, violence and exploitation.

Children in Rwanda have inalienable rights, which not even their parents can take away. But Ingabire's horrifying story shows that more needs to be done. Most children, especially in rural areas are subjected to physical violence, like battering and in some instances like Ingabire's tied with ropes as a way of punishing them.

Yet many children do not report this kind of abuse which leads the vice to flourish. According to police, 29 cases of child abandonment were recorded, last year, while 28 cases of child neglect were reported in the same year in the country.

Abuse of children's rights should be condemned in the harshest terms possible. There is need for the government to conduct awareness campaigns about children's rights, particularly through schools. This will enlighten children to report perpetrators of their abuse to the relevant authorities.

Local leaders should also carry out constant monitoring to see what is happening in their neighbourhoods. In addition, severe punishments need to be handed down to the perpetrators of child violence.

We must all save Rwandan posterity from suffering from depression that often characterises children who undergo mistreatment at home.

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