16 February 2017

Rwanda: Activists Want Laws Against Rape Harmonised

Civil society in Rwanda wants punishments over all rape related cases in the country's penal code harmonised.

In a report sent to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), a coalition of four local NGOs -- the Great Lakes Initiative for Human Rights and Development (GLIHD), the Rwandan Organisation of Women with Disabilities, Uwezo Youth Empowerment and Human Rights First Rwanda Association -- denounced what it termed a violation of the principle of equal protection under the law.

"The Coalition calls upon the committee to recommend to the government of Rwanda to harmonise punishments in terms of rape with a view to applying the principle of equal protection of the law to both the victims of rape and marital rape," the coalition report reads.

The Rwandan Penal Code provides for jail terms ranging from two months to six months for anyone convicted of marital rape whereas it provides for an imprisonment of more than five to seven years for anyone convicted of rape.

Rwanda is set to appear before the committee members starting from February 13, presenting its seventh to ninth periodic reports.

A report submitted by the Rwandan government to the committee is silent on marital rape.

"Equality of men and women before the law is enshrined in the Constitution... And it prohibits any form of discrimination," the report reads.

Marital rape was criminalised in Rwanda in 2009, but it is still a controversial topic with some considering that marriage gives a spouse an implied consent to sex in perpetuity.

Apart from the inconsistency in punishments, the coalition says it is also concerned with legal restrictions and the strong stigma surrounding abortion in the country.

A review of the Penal Code in 2012 expanded the grounds for abortion to pregnancy resulting from incest, rape and forced marriage.

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