The Minister of Justice and Attorney General Johnston Busingye wants Rwandans to stop blaming victims of sexual assault for the crime, saying that how they dress or what time of day they are attacked is no justification.
Although Rwandan laws punish rape and defilement with up to life imprisonment, sections of the society often blame such incidents on the victims themselves.
At an enforcement of justice programme event held in Gisagara District in Southern Province, Mr Busingye told residents to drop the mentality of limiting girls and women in the name of protecting them against potential sexual violence.
“The culture of warning young women against exposure to men for fear that they will be raped sends the wrong message: that if they are sexually violated, they are to blame, and renders innocence to rapists,” said Mr Busingye.
Mr Busingye spoke while on a routine inspection he does across the country to gauge the implementation of justice programmes at the grassroots.
“Blaming the woman who has been sexually violated is wrong and it promotes rape and defilement in our society,” Mr Busingye said.
The Justice Minister said that the blame is also manifested in “crime justifications” such as “the girl came to my room, wearing short clothes and I had no option,” adding that “government is working to change that mindset,” and to bring offenders to book.
The minister’s sentiments are shared by parliamentarians, prosecution and police, who argue that the blame game is encouraging rape and defilement in the country.
The Inspector General at National Public Prosecution Authority Jules Marius Ntete told the Rwanda Women Parliamentary Forum this past week that girls and women are not safe to go anywhere at anytime without the threat of being sexually violated.
“We are yet to realise the free movement of females because we have a threat in our society that puts the blame on a wom-an when suspects are arrested,” Ntete said.
Linda Nkuranga, the Commissioner for Co-operation and Protocol at Rwanda National Police told the Rwanda Women Parliamentary Forum that the mentality of blaming rape and defilement incidents on victims is “favouring rapists because even when they’re prosecuted, society still thinks they didn’t deserve the punishment.
”However, the Deputy Secretary General at Rwanda Investigation Bureau, Isabelle Kalihangabo said that a rise in rape cases could also be attributed to the public’s rising awareness of rape and defilement and reporting it, because in the past many used not to report the cases.
“We expect a sharp rise in rape and defilement cases in the next few years until all people are aware of the crime” she said.
According to data from the National Public Prosecution Authority, in 2016/2017 more than 2,000 defilement cases of girls below 18 and 62 of women defiling boys below 18 were registered.
In 2017/2018 the prosecution received more than 3,000 defilement cases including 75 of women who defiled boys below 18. 2018/2019 registered nearly 3,500 cases including 97 women who defiled young men under 18.
According to prosecution figures, some 1,100 out of more than 3,000 cases of child defilement received in 2018 were closed due to lack of evidence, since most victims delay to re-port to authorities which leads to a loss of evidence in the form of spermatozoa, saliva, finger-print marks, blood, molester’s pubic hair and sweat.