Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and spousal rape, and the government handled rape cases as a judicial priority. Penalties for conviction of rape range from five years’ to life imprisonment with fines of 500,000 to one million Rwandan francs ($617 to $1,234). Penalties for spousal rape range from two months to life imprisonment with fines of 100,000 to 300,000 Rwandan francs ($123 to $370).
The law provides for imprisonment of three to six months for threatening, harassing, or beating one’s spouse. Domestic violence against women was common. Authorities encouraged the reporting of domestic violence cases, although most incidents remained within the extended family and were not reported or prosecuted. The NPPA reported 190 cases of rape; 182 of these were prosecuted during the year, resulting in 152 convictions. The NPPA also reported 448 cases of spousal abuse that resulted in 338 prosecutions; of these, 319 cases resulted in convictions; the remaining 19 were dismissed for lack of evidence.
Police headquarters in Kigali had a hotline for domestic violence. Several other ministries also had free GBV hotlines. Each of the 78 police stations nationwide had its own gender desk, an average of three officers trained in handling domestic violence and GBV cases, and a public outreach program. The RNP Directorate against GBV handled all cases of such violence and child protection. The government established 29 one-stop centers throughout the country, providing medical, psychological, legal, and police assistance at no cost to victims of domestic violence. The government expanded the network of one-stop centers in hospitals, districts, and refugee camps.
The government conducted a whole-of-government, multistakeholder campaign against GBV, child abuse, and other types of domestic violence. GBV was a required training module for police and military at all levels and was included as a module for all troops and police deploying to peacekeeping missions abroad.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, FGM/C was not traditionally practiced in the country. The government ratified the Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003), which prohibits “all forms of female genital mutilation, scarification, medicalization and paramedicalization of female genital mutilation, and all other practices in order to eradicate them.”
The law considers all sex-based practices carried out on children, regardless of form or method and including FGM/C, to be defilement punishable if convicted by life in prison and a fine of 100,000 to one million Rwandan francs ($123 to $1,234). There were no reports of FGM/C perpetrated against children during the year.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment by employers or any other person and provides for penalties for conviction of two months’ to two years’ imprisonment and fines from 100,000 to 500,000 Rwandan francs ($123 to $617). Nevertheless, advocacy organizations reported sexual harassment remained common. The City of Kigali conducted a program to combat sexual harassment of women and girls in public spaces, and government officials frequently spoke publicly against sexual harassment and GBV.
Reproductive Rights: The government encouraged couples to have no more children than they could afford but also respected the right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of children; manage their reproductive health; and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence.
According to the United Nations, the estimated maternal mortality ratio decreased from 340 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010 to 290 in 2015, with a lifetime risk of maternal death of one in 66. Major factors influencing maternal mortality included lack of access to health facilities due to cost or distance, and unhygienic conditions.
The UN Population Division estimated 46.7 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception in 2015.
The NGO Ipas and the Great Lakes Initiative for Human Rights Development reported in 2015 that an average of 25 percent of women in prison were serving sentences for illegal abortion and were often arrested after seeking emergency health care for the management of complications arising from abortion. The RCS disputed the findings, stating only 2 percent of women in prison were serving sentences for illegal abortion. In December the president pardoned 62 women and girls serving sentences for abortion; media reported they were under age 16 at the time of conviction.
Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and are entitled to the same rights as men, including under family, labor, nationality, and inheritance laws. The law allows women to inherit property from their fathers and husbands, and couples may make their own legal property arrangements. Women experienced some difficulties pursuing property claims due to lack of knowledge, procedural bias against women in inheritance matters, multiple spousal claims due to polygyny, and the threat of GBV. The law requires equal pay for equal work and prohibits discrimination in hiring decisions.
After the 1994 genocide, which left many women as heads of households, women assumed a larger role in the formal sector, and many operated their own businesses. According to the National Institute of Statistics’ 2015 Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey, women headed 26 percent of households, and 24 percent of these households were in the lowest socioeconomic category. Women’s work was more concentrated in the agricultural sector, with 79 percent of women engaged in agricultural work, compared with 59 percent of men. Women worked in sales and commerce in similar proportion to men.
Women comprised 64 percent of the Chamber of Deputies and one-third of cabinet ministers but were a minority in district- and sector-level government positions. The 2015 organic law on cell- and sector-level mediation committees decreed that at least 30 percent of mediation committee members must be women. Men owned the major assets of most households, particularly those at the lower end of the economic spectrum, making bank credit inaccessible to many women and rendering it difficult to start or expand a business.
The government-funded National Women’s Council served as a forum for women’s issues and consulted with the government on land, inheritance, and child protection laws. The Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion led government programs to address women’s issues and coordinated programs with other ministries, police, and NGOs, including the national action plan for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security. The government provided scholarships for girls in primary and secondary school and loans to rural women. A number of women’s groups actively promoted women and children’s concerns, particularly those of widows, orphaned girls, and households headed by children. The government-run Gender Monitoring Office tracked the mainstreaming of gender equality and women’s empowerment throughout all sectors of society and collected gender-disaggregated data to inform policy processes.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from their parents. Children born to two Rwandan parents automatically receive citizenship. Children with one Rwandan parent must apply for citizenship before turning 18. Children born in the country to unknown or stateless parents automatically receive citizenship. Minor children adopted by Rwandans, irrespective of nationality or statelessness, automatically receive citizenship. Children retain their citizenship in the event of dissolution of the parents’ marriage. Births were registered at the sector level upon presentation of a medical birth certificate. There were no reports of unregistered births leading to denial of public services.
Education: The government implemented a 12-year basic education program in 2012 that extended free universal public education to six years of primary and six years of secondary education. Education through grade nine is compulsory. Parents were not required to pay tuition fees, although the LDGL reported in 2015 that “in practice parents have to pay high education fees for teachers’ incentives and meal expenses.” Radio programs echoed similar concerns throughout the year.
According to the 2015 Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey, 88 percent of children attended primary school in 2013/14, and 23 percent attended secondary school. Attendance was higher among girls than boys for both levels of education: 89 percent for girls compared with 87 percent for boys in primary school, and 25 percent for girls compared with 21 percent for boys in secondary school.
Child Abuse: While statistics on child abuse were unreliable, such abuse was common within the family, in the village, and at school. The government conducted a high-profile public awareness campaign against GBV and child abuse. The government supported a network of one-stop centers and hospital facilities that offered integrated police, legal, medical, and counseling services to victims of GBV and child abuse.
The government reported all cases of child abuse under the broad heading of “defilement” regardless of whether the abuse was sexual in nature. From July 1, 2015, to June 30, the NPPA reported prosecuting 1,479 defilement cases; of these, 1,203 resulted in convictions and 276 in acquittals.
In May the NHRC released a report on sexual harassment and defilement of minors with the goal of establishing evidence-based mitigation strategies to combat GBV. Based on interviews with more than 200 child victims of sexual abuse and harassment, the report identified teachers and caretakers as the most common perpetrators of GBV while noting the study revealed extensive underreporting due to cultural reasons and fear of stigma.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 21. Anecdotal evidence suggested child marriage was more common in rural areas and refugee camps than in urban areas.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): For information for girls under 18, see Women’s section above.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law states sexual relations with a child under age 18 constitute child defilement and are punishable if convicted by life in prison and a fine of 100,000 to one million Rwandan francs ($123 to $1,234). Between July 2015 and July 2016, the NPPA received 2,272 defilement cases; of these, 1,479 were prosecuted to conclusion, 437 cases were dismissed due to lack of evidence, and 356 remained in litigation at year’s end.
The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, which are punishable by penalties if convicted of six months to seven years’ imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 to 20 million Rwandan francs ($617 to $24,700). Conviction statistics were not available. The government, however, reported prosecuting 30 human trafficking cases during the year, resulting in seven convictions and seven acquittals, with 16 cases undecided at year’s end. Local media reports indicated victims in a number of these cases were minors.
Child Soldiers: There were no reports of RDF recruitment of Rwandan children as child soldiers. In contrast with the previous year, there were no confirmed reports of refugee children of Burundian origin recruited into armed groups.
The government supported the Musanze Child Rehabilitation Center in Northern Province that provided care and social reintegration preparation for children who previously served in armed groups in the DRC (see section 2.d., Emigration and Repatriation). The center provided education, psychosocial support, recreational and cultural activities, medical care, and agricultural vocational training.
Displaced Children: There were numerous street children throughout the country. Authorities gathered street children in district transit centers and placed them in rehabilitation centers. Conditions and practices varied at 29 privately run rehabilitation centers for street children.
UNHCR reported that approximately 1,500 unaccompanied children entered the country as part of an influx of more than 81,000 refugees from Burundi in 2015-16. UNHCR accommodated unaccompanied minors in the Mahama refugee camp and had camp staff provide them additional protection measures.
Institutionalized Children: The UN Children’s Fund reported in 2014 that one privately run and 30 government-run childcare institutions provided shelter, basic needs, and rehabilitation for approximately 3,000 orphans and street children. According to the National Commission for Children, 70 percent of children in orphanages were not orphans but had either run away from or been abandoned by their families. The government worked with international organizations and NGOs to provide vocational training and psychosocial support to orphans and street children, reintegrate them into their communities, and educate parents on how to prevent their children from becoming street children.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
There was a very small Jewish community, consisting entirely of foreigners, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, and the provision of other state services, and the government generally enforced these provisions. The law also mandates access to public facilities, accommodations for taking national examinations, provision of medical care by the government, and monitoring of implementation by the NHRC. The government generally implemented all of the foregoing provisions. Despite a continuing campaign to create a barrier-free environment for persons with disabilities, accessibility remained a problem throughout the country, including in public buildings. For example, civil society groups reported a need for interpreters fluent in sign language in police stations and courts.
Many children with disabilities did not attend primary or secondary school. The National Council of Persons with Disabilities estimated in 2014 there were 3,500 primary school students in special centers established to serve children with disabilities. Few students with disabilities reached the university level because many primary and secondary schools were unable to accommodate their disabilities. Institutes of higher education admitted some students with disabilities, but only the National University of Rwanda and the Kigali Institute of Education were able to accommodate students with visual disabilities.
There was one government psychiatric referral hospital in Kigali, with district hospitals providing limited psychiatric services. All other mental health facilities were nongovernmental. Facilities were often underequipped and understaffed, although the government worked to improve staffing and equipment in health facilities throughout the country.
Some citizens viewed disability as a curse or punishment that could result in social exclusion and sometimes abandoned or hid children with disabilities from the community.
The National Council of Persons with Disabilities, which assisted government efforts to provide for the rights of persons with disabilities, designated one member with disabilities to the Chamber of Deputies. The National Union of Disability Organizations in Rwanda provided an umbrella civil society platform for advocacy on behalf of persons with disabilities. A disabilities coordination forum was organized every trimester.
Persons with mental disabilities were required to submit a medical certificate to be eligible to vote. Some disabilities advocates complained requirements for electoral candidates to hold secondary education diplomas or higher degrees, depending on position, disadvantaged persons with disabilities. Advocates for persons with disabilities raised concerns regarding exclusion of persons with disabilities from polling centers and denial of their applications to the NHRC to serve as election monitors.
Longstanding tensions in the country culminated in the 1994 state-orchestrated genocide that killed between 750,000 and one million citizens, including approximately three-quarters of the Tutsi population. Following the killing of the president in 1994, an extremist interim government directed the Hutu-dominated national army, militia groups, and ordinary citizens to kill resident Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The genocide ended later in 1994 when the predominantly Tutsi RPF, operating from Uganda and northern Rwanda, defeated the national army and Hutu militias and established an RPF-led government of national unity that included members of eight political parties.
Since 1994 the government has called for national reconciliation and abolished the policies of the former government that created and deepened ethnic cleavages. The government removed all references to ethnicity in official discourse–with the exception of references to the genocide, which is officially termed “the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi”–and eliminated ethnic quotas for education, training, and government employment.
Some individuals stated the government’s reconciliation policies and programs failed to recognize Hutu victims of the genocide or stated crimes committed by the RPF after the end of the genocide.
The constitution provides for the eradication of ethnic, regional, and other divisions in society and the promotion of national unity. Most citizens know the regional or ethnic origin of their fellow citizens, and anecdotal reports suggested ethnic background played an important role in marriage, particularly in rural communities.
Beginning in the 1920s, colonial authorities formally assigned “racial” categories to all citizens and required them to carry identity cards indicating their designated ethnicity: Hutu, Tutsi, or Twa. Government authorities continued this practice until after the 1994 genocide. The postgenocide government banned identity card references to ethnicity and prohibited social or political organizations based on ethnic affiliation. As a result the Twa, who number approximately 34,000, lost their official designation as an ethnic group. The government no longer recognizes groups advocating specifically for Twa needs, and some Twa believed this government policy denied them their rights as an indigenous ethnic group. Nonetheless, the government recognized the Community of Rwandan Potters, a registered NGO focused primarily on Twa community needs, as an advocate for the most marginalized. Most Twa lived on the margins of society with very limited access to health care and education.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
There are no laws that criminalize sexual orientation or consensual same-sex sexual conduct, and cabinet-level government officials expressed support for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. LGBTI persons reported societal discrimination and abuse, and LGBTI rights groups reported occasional harassment by neighbors and police.
There were no known reports of physical attacks against LGBTI persons, nor were there any reports of LGBTI persons fleeing the country due to harassment or attack.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The constitution is silent on HIV-positive status; however, the penal code provides for imprisonment of up to six months for persons convicted of stigmatizing an individual who suffers from an incurable infection. There were no reports of prosecutions under this statute. Discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS occurred, although such incidents remained rare. The government actively supported relevant public education campaigns, including establishing HIV/AIDS awareness clubs in secondary schools and making public pronouncements against stigmatization of those with the disease.
The penal code also provides stiffer penalties for conviction of rape and defilement in cases of transmission of an incurable illness. In most cases of sexual violence, the victim and alleged perpetrator both undergo HIV testing. The law provides penalties for conviction of 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment in cases where an adult rape victim contracted an incurable disease; in cases where no transmission occurs, the penalty is typically five years’ imprisonment. Conviction of rape with intention to infect another person with an incurable illness carries a 20- to 25-year prison sentence. The law provides for life imprisonment in cases where child defilement led to the transmission of an incurable disease.
According to RDF policy and in keeping with UN guidelines, the military did not permit its members with HIV/AIDS to participate in peacekeeping missions abroad but allowed them to remain in the RDF.