Organized by the journalists network PAX PRESS in partnership with the German Development Cooperation (GIZ), the debate coincided with the launch of a nationwide anti-violence campaign under the theme “End violence against women and girls: Speak out.”
Innocent Rutayisire, a resident of Nyarugenge, said: “There is a kind of untold violence against men and it is on the rise because we feel ashamed reporting violence against us.”
“While men are still the breadwinner of the family, women are often behind the misuse of family resources such as in beer consumption and affairs with other men, he stated. “There were incidences where a husband came back home and found another man in his bed.”
Jean Baptiste Mbarubukeye, a resident of Kamabare Village in Ngenda Cell, said he knows cases of men who are beaten by their wives. Some of those men opted to leave their families. Mbarubukeye blamed the violence against men on what he termed “the supremacy that government has given to women.” The concern was also shared by a number of other men attending the debate.
Another participant, John Birindabagabo, said “women face violence at a higher rate but men also face it at a rate no one can determine because men rarely report the violence against them by their wives. Women are often envious of neighbours’ living conditions and put pressure on their husbands to provide beyond their capacities. If a man fails to do as a wife wishes, she starts getting around siding with other men. Isn’t that violence?”
Women, statistics disprove claims
Veredian Mukankusi, a resident of Nyarugenge Sector, said “not only do women face violence but also men do. Some young boys are forced to have sex with adult women.”
Clotilde Nyirangirababyeyi, 44 years old, said most of the men who abandon their families and live in Nyagatare District or Uganda are frustrated by the emancipation of women, which does not allow men to mistreat their wives and use family resources as they please.
“I was born and still live in this sector. I know how men have always violated women’s rights, especially before 1994 when most men including my uncles had up to three wives.” She told the audience that she was forced into marriage when she was 14-years old and became a wife to a 48-year old man.
“Now that government has changed power relations by new laws, some men are unhappy and claim to face violence only because they are frustrated,” added the mother of four children.
Priscilla Uwiragiye, the Bugesera vice Mayor in charge of Social Affairs, acknowledged violence against men but on a smaller scale than women. “Some people misinterpret the meaning of gender balance. They believe that it reduces the power of men and makes women superior to men. But in fact the policy seeks to promote equality and inclusiveness in decision-making both at family and national levels,” she said, adding that “no one should exercise violence against another. The government did not give space to women so that they step on men.”
Uwiragiye urged the residents to work together and avoid conflicts aiming to embrace the development in their families. “We shall keep sensitizing residents on fighting against violence especially during the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence,” she added.
Statistics from the police office in Bugesera indicate that 43 victims of violence were recorded in October 2017, including 12 women, 28 girls, two men and one boy. The statistics also show that 565 girls between 12 and 18 years were impregnated through violence in the first nine months of 2017. Among them, 29 early pregnancies were recorded in Nyarugenge alone, one of the 15 sectors of the district.