Gender Based Violence, a reference to physical, emotional, sexual and economic abuse still remains a major problem in the Rwandan society.
Gender Based Violence, a reference to physical, emotional, sexual and economic abuse still remains a major problem in the Rwandan society. As a result, structures and systems such as the Gihundwe and Isange One Stop Centres against Gender Based Violence (GBV) and child abuse in Rusizi District and Kigali respectively, have been installed to complement national efforts in responding to violence.
The One Stop Centres are specialized free-of-charge referral centres that are affiliated to bigger public hospitals, in this case, the Gihundwe District Hospital and Kacyiru Police Hospital; and act as places where survivors of GBV and child abuse can find a whole range of services such as; medical care, psychosocial support, police and legal support as the collection of forensic evidence where necessary.
The Gihundwe One Stop Centre In September 2010, Gihundwe One Stop Centre was opened to reach out to survivors ofcviolence in Rusizi District and increasingly, in Nyamasheke District. The centre works closely with the police, sector, cell and umudugudu (Village) leaders, community policing, hospitals and health centres from surrounding areas as a way of identifying victims of violence in the area. Dr. Placide Nshizirungu, the Director of Gihundwe District Hospital says several cases of GBV are reported within the Western province and having the One Stop Centre (OSC) at the hospital provides relief for people who are abused. “Before 2010, Gihundwe hospital attended to only the medical and psychological needs of victims of violence but today we are able to provide extensive care and follow up towards patients who visit the One-Stop Centre,” Dr. Nshizirungu said.
However, the Hospital Directors says that, many people are not as informed as they should and are not fully making use of the free services offered here. “People are mostly afraid of revealing their abusive situation due to a cultural mentality that considers opening up about domestic or child abuse as shameful,” he explains. Georgine Uwugumiye, Gihundwe OSC Coordinator, says the coordination of the centre is based on the principles of the survivor’s consent or choice, confidentiality as well as the respect of the dignity and rights of the survivor. This involves sensitization, treatment and follow-up on recovery of survivors of violence as well as investigating GBV crimes and prosecuting perpetrators of violence in the Rusizi community.
Since the centre opened in 2010, the highest number of GBV cases recorded monthly is 49 while the lowest recorded number is 15. The most common GBV cases are domestic violence which involves physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence, mostly inflicted on women by their husbands while sexual violence is predominant among little children and adolescent girls.
Cycle of Violence
As of September 2010 to December 2011, the centre has received a total of 575 victims, out of which the majority are girls and women. Based on the collected statistics, the most vulnerable age group for GBV seems to be girls between 16 and 20 years, who are mostly victims of sexual violence. Many of the girls fall victim to socalled sugar daddies, boyfriends and prying relatives, according to Clinical Psychologist Esperance Mukarugaba.
Additionally, women above 40 years are the second most affected victims of domestic violence, a factor attributed to cultural beliefs and mentalities. “People believe that it is okay to get beaten by their husbands or abused by the men in their families. Many girls who are raped are told to stay silent by their families because culturally, getting raped makes them ineligible for marriage,” Mukarugaba says.
The Demographic Health Survey (DHS) 2010 report indicates that 56 percent of Rwandan women believe that wife beating is justified under certain circumstances. Surprisingly, only 25 percent of men agree with this statement. “We have had many cases of girls who are raped and get pregnant at the ages of 13, 14 or 15. They mostly come to the OSC when it’s too late and even when the case reaches court it’s difficult to prove anything because forensic evidence is lost.
“Sexual and domestic violence has been part of many homes and the society for a very long time such that many have accepted it. This is a big hindrance to the fight against GBV,” explains Mukaruhgaba.
“Nevertheless, traumatized women and children can be treated at the centre over a period of time depending on the depth of their infliction,” the Psychologist emphasizes.
Police Gender Desk
The Gender Desk at the OSC is responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of GBV. This involves filling out a requisition form with information which makes investigation and follow-up easy.
“Survivors of violence need to report cases as truthfully as possible so that we can help them in the best possible way,” says Alphonsine Nyiraminani, who heads the Police Gender Desk at the centre. In cases of rape and defilement, the One Stop Centre will provide; a PEP Kit (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) a drug that prevents HIV/ Aids contraction as well as medication to stop the risk of pregnancy.
Pascasie Mukaruhigira, the Nurse at the Gihundwe OSC says she treats high numbers of sexual and physical abuse. “Patients are carefully examined and in situations of sexual violation, laboratory tests have to be taken to assess the extent of damage and to preserve forensic evidence. This way we can refer patients for further treatment to a doctor, gynecologist or report to the police for investigation if its child abuse,” says Mukaruhigira. It is mandatory that if a survivor of violence is under 18 years, the nurse reports the case to the police if they suspect that a crime is committed whereas if the survivor is above 18 years, it’s their choice to report the crime. Sensitization against GBV Social workers play a key role at the OSC as they are the first line of contact with survivors. They will mostly require the use of good judgment to guide a survivor to a psychologist if they are in a state of shock and to a paralegal officer for legal support and protection if they request it.
“We have realized that, many adolescents and women are not aware of their rights and that’s why they take long to report abuse until the violence gets extremely bad,” says Chantal Mukakayibanda, a Social Worker at the centre.
“We always try to educate people on how to avoid and prevent situations leading to GBV. We explain the purpose of abstinence and encourage adolescent girls to pursue their education as a priority,” Mukakayibanda says. Impact of Gihundwe OSC.
Couples in conflict program
In August, 2012, with support from UNFPA, a GBV training was carried out in Rusizi for 180 couples who were living in conflict. Several husbands were able to understand the various forms of violence and didn’t even realize they were committing GBV.
Partnership with Nyamasheke District
As a result of the success of the GBV trainings, partnerships with Nyamasheke District are in place as more local leaders have expressed the need to sensitize families in their villages. Additionally, the GBV Clubs set up in schools and universities and GBV Committees at the village level, are platforms that ensure that students and women are aware of their human rights. According to the Uwugumiye, the Gihundwe OSC Coordinator, it takes time to change the mentality of communities and consequently eradicate Gender Based Violence.