Health Officials Demand Reform in GBV Court Cases Ruling  

Health Minister(2nd left) Diane Gashumba and other officials during the conference

Frédéric Niyotwizera was in 2009 sentenced to ten years in prison during the court trial in Musanze district, for repeatedly sexually abusing a girl below eighteen years of age.

During the trial, he pleaded guilty with regret and asked court to reduce his sentence on grounds he was a person living with HIV/Aids (PLWHA) and needed medical attention.

However, without taking much time to discuss his health concerns, court resolved the sentence was lawful and he would get treated in prison.

With such cases among others witnessed, Rwanda and United Nations Community have committed to advocate for the case of PLWHA and Gender Based Violence (GBV) victims in order to improve human rights and end the scourge as a human threat by 2030.

The resolution was taken this November 8, 2018 at a high level symposium on capacity building of law enforcing officers on linkages between Gender Based Violence (GBV), HIV and legal protection to advance fast track agenda for ending Aids in Rwanda.

The symposium, opened by the Minister of Health Dr. Diane Gashumba, recommended an improvement on the legal procedures in offering equity justice to PLWHA especially sex workers, housemaids and same sex relations- whom reports indicate are now at high risk of abuse, social violence and stigma.

They suggest that the rulings in these cases should take into consideration, that they are people who deserve attention, even if they may serve the same sentence provided in the law.

“The justice we need here doesn’t mean uniformity in all cases but giving the rightful protection which is relevant and suitable for the specific individual cases,” said Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana HIV/AIDS and STIs Division Manager at Rwanda Biomedical Center.

William Ndengeyinka, Senior State Attorney in the Ministry of Justice on the role of judicial system in enhancing human rights for HIV and GBV victims said that court system is supported by laws and constitution but more detailed attention is needed by judiciary.

“For us we see it as an issue, we want to see judges discuss issues raised in GBV and would be happy to see courts take their time discussing all details of the court proceeding.

We need to develop jurisprudence on the rights of PLHIV (role of lawyers, prosecutors, judges, activists,” Ndegeyinka said.

Lawyers like Aloys Hakizimana, who defended a sexual abuse and pregnancy case for a child in Muhanga district without pay, says that the judicial system should stop focusing on the financial benefits and instead the value of a case.

Sex workers testimonies reveal that living with HIV is also made harder in the face of abuse of their human rights by security officials, local defense officers, local leaders and health workers who refuse to provide services.

“We are also humans. We are calling for a new approach to how they handle us during an arrest or general security curfew. I was recently beaten by local leaders and asked to leave the village because of working with sex workers.” said Marie Claire Mukampogazi who has formed nine associations of Female Sex Workers since 2016.

Shafiga Murebwayire, Division Manager Anti-GBV at Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) says that in order to effect human rights, institutions should handle cases by the book.

The symposium is also part of Rwanda’s preparations to join the rest of the world towards celebration of the 70th anniversary of the human rights declaration of which Rwanda has ratified several conventions.

 

 




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