Minister of Justice and Attorney General Johnston Busingye’s recent call that we stop condemning victims of sexual assault added an official voice to a campaign that has also been on twitter, where Rwandan women have called out men for the crime, saying much as they are powerless to get redress in the courts of law, shaming their offenders will save other girls who would otherwise be preyed upon by these men.
The country is also hit with an increase in the rate of early pregnancies especially in the villages, many of the young mothers being victims of rape and defilement by older men and sometimes relatives.
These cases indicate that women at all levels are subjected to sexual crimes in Rwanda.
As a protective measure, many parents in villages have resorted to keeping their young girls indoors, to minimise their chances of meeting men - an approach the minister disagreed with.
Although it is only prudent for parents to protect their children, it is the primary responsibility of the state to protect all people from danger by employing all kinds of mechanisms.
Rwanda has enacted laws against gender-based violence but the crime keeps rising. More disheartening is the fact that many offenders end up walking free because of how complex it is to preserve or gather evidence to incriminate a rape or defilement offender.
About 1,100 out of 3,000 cases of child defilement received in 2018 were closed due to lack of scientific evidence, saying most victims delay to report to authorities which leads to losing forenisc evidence to convince courts.
Some experts say the law makes the burden of proof hard for victims of rape. According to the law, the rape victim has to go to a hospital so the evidence is not lost, but what this law did not factor in is the psychological effects of the crime of rape to the victim.
Rape is a dirty and debasing crime to the victim. The next thing the victim wants to do is wash and clean themselves, yet by this they are erasing evidence. The trauma and stigma that comes with rape also keeps many from reporting these cases.
Seeing as rape and defilement are crimes of power, making the burden of proof difficult for the victim, the relevant authoritiesshould go back to the drawing board. We have changed the constitution, surely, the legal instruments around these crimes are not cast in stone.
Police and other institutions have conducted sensitisation campaigns, telling women and girls what to do once they have been raped or defiled, but this has not helped much, because the perpetrators also know the law very well, and are often well placed to shield themselves from the law.
Speeches are and visits are good, but It is time for the Rwandan government — which boasts a good track record of adjusting and coming up with better pro-people regulations, to act on curbing sexual crimes.