Thursday, April 08, 2010

Gender Issues: Gender-based violence in Rwanda

Source: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) - In Rwanda, a UN-supported centre in the capital city, Kigali, is providing health, legal and psychosocial support to victims and raising awareness about violence against women, particularly among men. The centre is also educating police officers about gender-based violence.

"As the police are responsible for investigating gender and domestic violence cases, they have to understand gender inequalities and gender-based violence," said Violet Kaberanze, a consultant at the Centre, which runs a hotline. "This helps them listen to victims, take violence against women as a security and human rights issue and to be compassionate to them."

The initiative is a partnership between the Government of Rwanda and the UN, including UNDP, the UNDP-administered UNIFEM and UNICEF. It comes on the heels of landmark achievements in women's rights in Rwanda, including the Gender-Based Violence Bill passed by the Parliament four years ago. The bill, which was also supported by the three UN organizations, defines gender-based violence and calls for its prevention through educational campaigns and legal punishment for perpetrators.

One of the first cases reported to the Centre concerned a mother who discovered that her 14-year-old daughter had been repeatedly raped by the girl's guardian. Not knowing where else to turn, the mother contacted a UN programme officer who in turn referred her to the Centre's hotline.

"Here, the violence-affected woman or girl has the chance to have her case be investigated – and perpetrators of violence to be persecuted," Kaberanze added.

In 2006, the Centre investigated 1,777 rape cases, referred by Rwandan police, resulting in 803 convictions. Staff also helped to ensure evidence was available for court proceedings.

Gender inequalities are so embedded in the culture that many men don't perceive their behavior towards women as aggressive. For this reason, raising awareness is crucial among all the population, but particularly boys and men.

As a pastor in northern Rwanda, Emmanuel* considered himself the model husband, until he attended a gender-based violence awareness programme in his community. He then realized he had been violent with his wife to a degree that was considered illegal.

"When I learned that my behavior was not acceptable I changed," Pastor Emmanuel said. "And I promised to share what I had learned with the rest of the men in my community and beyond."

*Name has been changed

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