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Rwanda: Protection available to women who are victims of domestic violence (2004-2007)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 14 June 2007
Citation / Document Symbol RWA102530.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Rwanda: Protection available to women who are victims of domestic violence (2004-2007), 14 June 2007, RWA102530.E, available at: [accessed 1 June 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The United States (US) Department of State, reporting on events in 2006, notes that domestic violence is "common" in Rwanda (6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5). The Rwandan government's Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion published an in-depth study of domestic violence in June 2004. The survey shows that 54 percent of female respondents who have a conjugal partner have experienced domestic violence (Rwanda June 2004, 7). 30 percent of these women have been threatened with violence, 16 percent have been "slapped," and 11 percent have been "struck" (ibid.). One in ten partnered female respondents reports experiencing sexual violence in the form of conjugal rape (ibid.). In addition, 31 percent of female respondents with partners report that they experienced domestic violence within the preceding 12 months (ibid., 48). The report explains that in Rwanda, domestic violence is considered "a private matter" (ibid., 65). It notes that 45.6 percent of victims did not tell anyone about the violence, while the remainder told close family members or friends (ibid.; see also US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5). The study shows that 5.8 percent of women sought help from "local authorities," while 0.4 percent sought help from the police (Rwanda June 2004, 65). The report indicates that 45 percent of women lack trust in community services and that women prefer to forget the violence or to pray for resolution (ibid.).


According to the United States (US) Department of State, Rwandan law does not address domestic violence (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5). The United Nations (UN) Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) reports that on 3 August 2006, the Rwandan House of Assembly unanimously adopted, the Draft Law on the Prevention, Protection and Punishment of Any Gender Based Violence (UN 7 Aug. 2006). The draft law was formulated by the Forum for Rwandan Women Parliamentarians (FFRP) with support from UNIFEM and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) (ibid.). The bill, which will be finalized after necessary amendments are incorporated, has five sections:

[T]he first identifies the objectives of the law and definition of terms, the second addresses fundamental principles for the prevention of [Gender Based Violence] GBV, the third identifies the obligations of various stakeholders in preventing GBV, the fourth provides for the penalties for various categories of GBV-related crimes, and the fifth shows the relationship between the GBV bill and other penal laws. (ibid.)

UNIFEM notes that there was much discussion in parliament about violence within the family context, and that there was resistance to marital rape being incorporated into the draft law (ibid.). It is unclear whether or not this resistance was overcome and if provisions criminalizing marital rape were included in the bill (ibid.). In November 2006 the UN Human Rights Committee asked the Rwandan government whether it intended to criminalize domestic violence (UN 22 Nov. 2006, Para. 5). A response to this query could not be located by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Available protection

In partnership with UNIFEM and UNDP, Rwanda's National Police established a gender desk in May 2005 (UN 3 Aug. 2006, 6). The purposes of the gender desk include preventing gender-based violence, providing "rapid response," helping victims gain access to services and collecting information on gender-based violence (ibid., 6-7). The desk further aims to strengthen the judicial police unit which responds to crimes on a daily basis; the Child and Family Protection Unit which provides a victim referral service and the Community Policing Unit which engages in increasing community awareness of gender-based violence (ibid.). As part of the collaboration, UNIFEM has equipped the police with motorcycles so they can respond rapidly to cases of domestic violence (ibid.). Victims alert police of incidents via a centralized national telephone hotline which then routes the call through to the appropriate response unit (ibid.). Information on the effectiveness of these systems could not be located by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

A September 2004 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report entitled Struggling to Survive: Barriers to Justice for Rape Victims in Rwanda makes general observations about the health services available to women and girl victims of sexual violence (Sec. 4).

Rwanda's twelve provinces count 365 health centers, thirty-three hospitals at the health district level, and five national referral hospitals for more advanced medical care. Existing health centers serve large geographic areas, with an average distance of four miles of rough, hilly terrain separating each site and the population it serves, estimated to be 25,000 people.... According to a May 2003 Rwandan government estimate, there are 300 doctors in the country. Nurses and medical assistants, in the absence of doctors, operate most health centres. Health centers dispense basic medication, such as aspirin, which is frequently in short supply. (HRW Sept. 2004, Sec. 4).

Although it does not speak specifically to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) concerned with domestic violence, HRW notes that following the Rwandan genocide, "numerous NGOs have taken up the cause of women's and girls' rights" (HRW Sept. 2004, Sec. 3). These organizations provide various services, including legal aid, health care, counselling, and assistance with "violence, property rights, divorce, and custody" (ibid.). In November 2006 an initiative by three local non-governmental human rights organizations funded by Norwegian People's Aid trained sixty individuals so that they could conduct awareness campaigns in order to eradicate domestic violence in their districts (The New Times 14 Nov. 2006).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Human Rights Watch (HRW). September 2004. Struggling to Survive: Barriers to Justice for Rape Victims in Rwanda. [Accessed 17 May 2007]

The New Times [Kigali]. 14 November 2006. "Trainees Vow to Stamp Out Domestic Violence." (The New Times/All Africa/Factiva)

Rwanda. June 2004. Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion. Violence Against Women. (Grands Lacs Web site) [Accessed 15 May 2007]

United Nations (UN). 22 November 2006. Human Rights Committee. List of Issues to be Taken Up in the Absence of the Third Regular Report of the Republic of Rwanda, Expected on 10 April 1992. (CCPR/C/RWA/Q/3) [Accessed 15 May 2007]
_____. 7 August 2006. UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). "Gender-Based Violence Bill Passes in Rwandan Parliament." (Reliefweb Web site) [Accessed 17 May 2007]
_____. 3 August 2006. United Nations Development Programme. United Nations Rwanda. "UN and Gender Empowerment." Newsletter. Special Issue, Nº01/06. [Accessed 16 May 2007]

United States (US). 6 March 2007. Department of State. "Rwanda." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006. [Accessed 17 May 2007]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources, including: The Association des Femmes Chefs de Familles, the Gender Advisory Board Africa Regional Secretariat, Haguruka, the Rwandan Ministry of Gender and Women in Development (MIGEPROFE), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kigali did not provide information to the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sources, including: AllAfrica; Afrol News; Amnesty International (AI); British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); European Country of Origin Information Network (; Fédération International des Ligues des Droits de l'Homme (FIDH); Freedom House; Ligue Rwandaise pour la Promotion et la defense des droits de l'homme (LIPRODHOR); Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); Reliefweb; Reproductive Health for Refugees Consortium; Rwanda, Forum of Rwandan Women Parliamentarians (FFRP); Twese Hamwe/Pro Femmes; UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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