Statistics of underage rape cases collected by Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) show that the bureau received 2091 cases in the year 2016/17, 3060 cases in the year 2017/18 and 3512 cases in the year 2018/19.
Only a very low number denounce their abusers especially given the fact that only in 2016, 17,000 underage girls were impregnated as shown by the statistics released by the Ministry of Health. Last year, this number escalated to 19,000 cases.
IGIHE talked to some of the girls below 18 years of age who were impregnated and asked them the reason behind not denouncing their abusers for them to face justice.
The girls told IGIHE that getting impregnated at their tender age had numerous negative impacts on their lives including dropping out of school, getting chased from their families and stigmatization.
They say they cannot talk to the police for fear of their abusers being sentenced and then losing their only source of child support.
Ishimwe Yvonne who lives in Kigarama sector was raped and impregnated when she was 16. She says she could not denounce her abuser because of the fear of being stigmatized.
“I could not denounce him because my child will grow someday and learn that I sent his father to jail and will despise me for it. I will let his conscience judge him.”
19-year-old, Munezero Liliane who has a 3-year-old son says she kept it a secret because she did not want the father of her child to go to jail.
“The reason why I did not take him to court is that I would have been hated for it and I did not want my baby to grow without a father.”
Mukandori Rehema whose daughter was raped and impregnated said she did not think this was a matter to be taken to court because her daughter brought it onto herself by visiting his rapist.
“I could not do anything about it because my daughter willingly went to that guy’s house despite my countless warnings that she shouldn’t. She claimed she loved him and when she got pregnant, I only saw it fit to keep it a secret.”
RIB Spokesperson, Marie Michelle Umuhoza told IGIHE that it is a very simple process for these girls to press charges against their abusers.
“All we are asking for is for the victims to step forward and press charges so that their abusers can be tried in court. That is the reason why RIB established stations countrywide so that these crimes don’t remain a secret.”
Murwanashyaka Evariste, CLADHO (Collectif des Ligues et Association de Défense des Droits de l’Homme au Rwanda) coordinator says that there are four major reasons why victims don’t denounce their abusers.
“Some of the reasons why these underage girls stay quiet is because they fear that their abusers will harm them, or they bribe them into not talking. Another reason is that the victims’ families forbid the girls to talk under the pretext of keeping harmony among families”
Underage rape is a statutory offence in Rwanda that is punished with imprisonment between 20 and 25 years.