Batamuriza (not real name) is divorced. She had lived in an abusive marriage for four years until she decided that she had had enough and filed for divorce.
When she first decided that her husband was too abusive to stand, she went to her parents’, who kicked her out with the ‘niko zubakwa’ lecture (loosely, ‘that’s how marriage is handled’).
She pursued her divorce nonetheless. But it was harder than she thought. The process took her three years.
Some local administrators kept asking if she really thought if divorce was the best option.
The rigorous process it takes to get a divorce in Rwanda is one of the factors blamed for severe consequences of domestic violence.
Some cases are so serious they result into murder.
One of the most recent cases of domestic abuse that has been in public domain for the past few days involves a man who was last year relieved of his duties as vice mayor of Musanze District.
Olive Kamaliza, wife to Augustin Ndabereye who she says had repeatedly battered her since 2012 before he was arrested late last year, took to Twitter to expose the ordeal she says she had endured for eight years.
In her thread, in which she tagged President Paul Kagame, First Lady Jeannette Kagame and other senior officials, she implored for protection because she feared her husband could kill her once he’s granted bail.
Ndabereye’s bail ruling had been set for Tuesday this week but court postponed the decision citing the absence of the presiding judge.
Kamaliza outlined several instances of physical assault she allegedly suffered at the hands of her husband, some so dire it left many wondering why a woman in such an abusive marriage does not file for divorce.
Juliette Karitanyi, who describes herself as a women’s rights activist, told The New Times that Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) seems to be on the rise.
“And people who are mostly affected are women,” she said.
Although she thinks people have better known their rights, she calls upon faith-based organisations and social entities to talk about and condemn IPV. “We all have the right to live and live in a good environment.”
“As a society we need to keep educating men and women about their rights. No adult has the right to raise their hand on someone.
“Women do not have to wait for so long to realise that they are in an abusive relationship. If he hits you once, chances are that he will do it again. Women’s value should not be measured by the amount of abuse they can take in.”
Karitanyi also argues that IPV can affect children in some ways.
“When the couple has children, they need to know that this will affect their kids; reaping from the same actions, such as getting married to an abuser in the future, bad performance at school, identity issues while growing up.
People tend to think that enduring an abusive marriage in a way helps their children, she says, but “the truth is that staying in an abusive relationship does not benefit the kids.”
In 2019, Isange One Stop Centre received over 5,000 cases of domestic violence. According to Shafiga Murebwayire, the Gender-Based Violence Crimes Division at Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), the trend is on the rise, compared to the past years.
In the past six months alone, National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) received 1,084 intimate partner violence cases; 56 against women, and 1,028 against men.
Up to 853 of the cases were taken to court.
According to United Nations, men are more likely to perpetrate violence if they have low education, a history of child maltreatment, exposure to domestic violence against their mothers, harmful use of alcohol, unequal gender norms; attitudes accepting of violence and a sense of entitlement over women, among others.
The UN also says that women are more likely to experience intimate partner violence if they have low education, exposure to mothers being abused by a partner, abuse during childhood, attitudes accepting violence, male privilege, and women’s subordinate status.
An estimated 58 per cent of female victims of murder in 2017 were killed by an intimate partner or member of their own family, while less than 40 per cent of the women who experience violence seek help of any sort, according to UN data.
Those who do, most look to family and friends, and less than 10 per cent of those women sought help by appealing to the police or other formal institutions and mechanisms, such as health services, it adds.
It also shows that violence against women is a serious cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill-health than traffic accidents and malaria combined