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Delayed justice for Gender Based Violence victims during Covid-19

Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases are reported on the rise in families during lockdowns subsequent to COVID-19 effect, with no or delayed justice for offenders since many courts are not sitting due to the pandemic.

With COVID-19 preventive measures including lockdowns, many couples are staying at home with less work which would easily result in GBV cases attributed to idleness.

Due to different reasons including cultural norms and unsafe support services among others, there are reports that some cases have gone unreported to courts of law which is aiding offenders commit more crimes with impunity.

“We have witnessed more than three GBV cases in our locality, and all those have not been reported to Rwanda Investigative Bureau (RIB) or any other judicial body. The harassment in households has become severe since COVID-19 restrictions including lockdowns were put in place,” said Ventie Yankurije, the head of health counselors at the cell level in Kamonyi district.

“In one case, the husband abuses his partner but the biggest problem is that the wife is now starving as a punishment from the husband who blames her for getting pregnant against his will. The unwanted pregnancy started causing animosity when the husband lost his job as a result of covid-19,” she added.

With no legal solution for such cases, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the village counselors have tried to step in to mediate with little success and this has increased cases or aggravated them.

The fights always rotate around many reasons such as alleged infertility in women, job loss and drunkenness among others and the prosecution is encouraging victims to speak up.

Speaking about unreported cases still found in different families in the country, Faustin Nkusi, National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) spokesperson said: “Keeping quite is never worthwhile. I advise GBV victims to report it on time for their justice. Sometimes there are barriers to them like cultural norms and illiteracy but I urge them to approach nearby authorities to guide them and start the juridical process.”

According to statistics of the NPPA, GBV cases prosecuted during the first quarter of 2020-2021 (July- September 2020) were at 1862 including 606 of harassment of a spouse; while during the whole year 2019-2020, all GBV cases stood at 7004, counting 2430 cases for harassment of a spouse.

Nooliet Kabanyana, Executive Secretary of Rwanda NGOs Forum on HIV/AIDS and Health Promotion (RNGOF on HIV/AIDS & HP), Community engagement in GBV Prevention says all stakeholders are needed in this period more than ever before where all should be put at the center of fighting GBV in this time of and after lockdowns.

“Education on GBV prevention, referral and information services should be increased during this time of and after lockdowns due to COVID-19.  Services for victims are essential services. This means that shelters, hotlines, counseling and all support for victims of gender-based violence need to be available and accessible for those in need, even during the coronavirus pandemic” she said.

Kabanyana added that RNGOF on HIV/AIDS & HP has been working closely and encouraging its member Organizations to continue sensitizing and educating community members including vulnerable families on GBV Prevention and deliver GBV Referral and service information.

GBV has been criminalized in Rwanda since 2008 and is currently under Law No 68/2018 of 30/08/2018, which defines four types of GBV: bodily, economic, sexual and psychological. Further, punishments for child neglect due to gender, marital rape, sexual violence and harassment of a spouse are outlined.

Source: Intego Newspaper

Jean Claude Kubwimana

Jean Claude Kubwimana

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