Disabled Children Locked Away By Ashamed Parents, Say MPs

Rwanda parliament

Boy, as he is known in his neighborhood is a 15-year-old firstborn with autism disease in a family of four siblings from Kinyinya, Gasabo district.

The neighbors, and even his siblings call him ‘Boy’ since his name is not known to anyone, except his parents. 

While his siblings are healthy and try to engage him in playing children’s games, he can barely move his body or make a statement with three lines as his mouth drips with salvia every minute.

That is a life Boy has known since day one of life on earth. Sometimes he gets erratic throwing stones on windows when he is upset with something he cannot say verbally.

Other siblings sometimes laugh at him or try to control his mood, but like many children he is left to the care of the housemaid.

For 13 years, his parents locked him in the compound after realising that “his attitude was not pleasing the neighbor” in a society which had rejected him after all. 

It is only in 2018 that his parents decided to send him to a specialized school in Rwamagana district – Eastern Province despite all odds.

“Surprisingly since he started school, he has learnt to speak though with difficulty but also listen to what he is told. We didn’t think this would happen,” says his caretaker Alice Mukasine.

On June 25, Rwanda Parliament ratified an African Union Protocol that guarantees equal protection of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights to individuals with “physical, mental, intellectual, developmental or sensory impairments.

The MPs said that challenges to those categories (where Boy actually belongs)need serious attention in Rwanda. 

The parliament indicated that a score of such children are undocumented and have been denied right to live out their potentials.

MP John Ruku Rwabyoma said that it is unfair for parents to hide such children instead of giving them a chance to exercise their fundamental rights.

Rwabyoma said children with disabilities are in most cases abandoned by their fathers who leave them to the mothers to care for.

“We need a special social support system so that these children can come out to  light. Maybe this will encourage couples to equally take responsibility,” MP Rwabyoma said.

Rwanda became the 7th country in Africa to ratify the protocol which was first signed in January 2018.

Minister of State Ignatienne Nyirarukundo presenting to the parliament the African Union Protocol on equal protection of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights to persons with disability

Lawmakers said that the treaty wouldn’t make sense if the government has no specific policy on disability.

They pushed the government to speed up revision of the old policy to enable Rwandan parents to improve welfare of the disabled persons. 

MP Eugène Mussolini, who represents the persons with disabilities (PLWD) in parliament said that the existing policy is based on research done in 1995 yet many issues and concerns like access to health have changed over time. 

“How shall we implement this law yet the policy on disability doesn’t represent reality on ground?” Mussolini asked.

Minister of State of Local Government, Ignatienne Nyirarukundo, who presented the AU protocol for ratification in Rwanda said that the policy on disabilities is ready but it was met with debate before approval.

Nyirarukundo said that the debate arose when some officials on the policy task force wanted the disability policy to be joined with social protection policy which however, the Ministry thought that it needed to be a separate policy.

The new policy on persons with disabilities is under review and will be tabled to the parliament soon, according to Nyirarukundo.




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