Defilement cases topped Rwanda's gender based crime list in 2012 despite the reduction in the reported cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV), the Rwanda National Police has reported.
Recorded cases of GBV reduced by 3.9% in 2012 to 3,444 from 3,585 in 2011 mainly because of the increased public awareness campaigns and law enforcement, according to the statistics from Police. They had shot up by 4.6% in 2011 to 3,585 cases from 3, 427 in 2010.
Defilement or forced sexual intercourse with persons aged below 18 years, dominated the GBV crime list representing 47% of the total recorded cases. This was the third year defilement cases topped the GBV crime list since 2010.
The Police statistics indicate a gradual reduction in defilement cases in 2010 and 2012 while in 2011, they increased.
In 2010, 1, 654 cases of defilement were reported and they increased in 2011 to 1, 733 and again reduced in 2012 to 1, 619.
Charles Kaliwabo, Judiciary Spokesperson, says that although GBV cases are relatively high in courts, rape cases have decreased. According to the Article 191 of Rwanda's Penal Code, a person convicted of defilement is liable to life imprisonment with special provisions.
Attempted murder and rape were reported as the second and third dominant crimes after recording 480 and 255 cases in 2012 respectively. Statistics indicate that gender-based crimes led to the death of 94 people in 2012, including 26 women killed by their husbands and 11 men killed by their women. But murder cases reduced by 9 cases in 2012 from 103 reported in 2011 while in 2010, 133 people had been killed most of them by their spouses.
Most GBV cases are family conflicts in nature, most of the time caused by property wrangles like land where spouses kill each other to claim ownership of property or sometimes children kill their parents over the same issue. Other causes include poverty and illiteracy.
But drug abuse such as marijuana and excessive drinking are some of the notorious causes of domestic violence, according to the director of gender and child protection in Rwanda National Police Chief Inspector of Police, Linda Nkuranga.
Most culprits in domestic violence such as defilement, rape and assault, and sometimes murder, are under the influence of drugs," she stated. Drug abuse has topped the crime list in Rwanda for the past four years, and it is common among the youth.
Rwanda's Chief Gender Monitor at the Office of Monitoring Office (GMO) Oda Gasinzigwa said that although GBV cases are still high they are, in fact, reducing.
"They shouldn't be looked at in a negative way but rather as positive results coming out of awareness campaigns where women and girls now know their rights and report such cases," she said.
Family planning and free medical services to GBV victims has contributed much in the campaign. The government established a hospital to provide free medical treatment to GBV victims and aid in judicial processes by providing evidence against the accused. Known as Isange One-Stop Centre, the facility is located in Kacyiru, a Kigali suburb. It works with the Police Medical Hospital. Nkuranga says that the Police now have various means to collect evidence needed to facilitate prosecution.
She says that GBV cases are reducing partly because of measures initiated to deal with the vice. Such measures, Nkuranga says, include establishment of the Anti-GBV Directorate in the Police force to enhance prevention and response to GBV and child abuse through community empowerment, partnership, building and protection of human rights by providing quick and friendly services to victims. In 2002, Police established a child and family protection unit to respond to high rates of child and domestic violence cases which were very high, as part of the enactment of the law protecting children against violence.
The child and family protection unit, however, was limited in addressing the high rates of domestic and child abuse causes due to the diverse causes of GBV and unit staff and logistics capacity.
This, according to Nkuranga, explains why in 2005 a gender desk was established in Police to strengthen initiatives for prevention, and to bring all stakeholders on board to join forces together against the vice.
"We have managed to train and place police officers in charge of gender at every police station countrywide, and sensitized the community, especially the youth and women to report such cases to concerned authorities, which wasn't the case previously, at times due to culture and religious beliefs," she explained.
"The sensitization campaigns have opened the eyes and ears of people, especially women and girls, who now know their rights and report such cases, especially using the provided toll-free line - 3512," she noted.
Challenges still linger
Gasinzingwa believes there are still some challenges, especially in coordination, evaluation and empowering the community to eradicate poverty and break the illiteracy rate, which she says are the forces behind domestic violence.
The government, says Gasinzigwa, has done a lot to curb GBV such as formulating policies and laws that aid in the prosecution of culprits. Civil society, religious denominations and security forces have also helped in the fight against GBV. But a lot more still needs to be done in order to continue reducing cases of GBV, according to Gasinzigwa.
"There is still a challenge in coordination, evaluation and monitoring because most of these institutions in the campaign do it independently, "she says, adding, "They need to put their forces together to enhance their efforts if GBV is to be dealt with effectively. "GBV is not like other activities where you set targets; the positive changes are forced by other things like poverty eradication, empowering women and girls to go to school to break the illiteracy rate and also cultural mindset when the victims are in position to know their rights," she said.