Home NewsNational Public Indecency, Nudity to Be Added to the List of Punishable Acts

Public Indecency, Nudity to Be Added to the List of Punishable Acts

by Daniel Sabiiti
11:32 am

The Rwanda Parliament lower house plenary session

The Government has proposed an amendment of the Laws determining offences and penalties in general and criminal procedure to reduce heavy punishments.

The proposal came through the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) criminal report presented to parliament this June 26, 2023.

The report shows that the number of crimes has increased from 39,900 in 2019, to 84,453 this year.

Soline Nyirahabimana, the Minister of State in charge of Constitutional and Legal Affairs said that the proposal was based on giving more flexibility to judges but also providing for other prohibited acts not currently punishable by law.

The law seeks to add public indecency and nudity to the list of punishable acts, but also reduce prison population through parole.

The proposal is also based on the Criminal Justice Policy (September 2022) which provides for actions that will be taken including amending the law to align it with the new policy orientation for punishment and correction as well as rehabilitation of offenders.

Giving more flexibility to judges

The existing law provides for some offences that cannot be mitigated by any circumstances even if the judge believes there are reasonable grounds for mitigating circumstances.

This limits judges in exercising their discretion in determining fair penalties as the law prevents in some cases, consideration of mitigating factors which would benefit the defendant hence impeding on the right to a fair trial.

This also contradicts the principle that the judge normally determines a penalty according to: the gravity of the offence, its consequences, motives for committing the offence, offender’s prior record, personal situation, circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence.

In this regard, the draft law provides that if the judge approves mitigating circumstances, he or she may reduce penalties such that life imprisonment may be reduced to a penalty of imprisonment of not less than 10 years; a fixed-term imprisonment from 6 months and above may be reduced but it cannot be less than a half (1/2) of the minimum sentence provided by the law while  a jail sentence of less than 6 months may be suspended.

Moreover, a fine may be reduced up to a quarter (1/4) of the minimum fine provided for the offence committed and a penalty of community service may be suspended.

Making the crime of child defilement imprescriptible

According to the draft bill the crime of child defilement has been increasing and affecting Rwandan society.

Most of the time suspects in this crime flee after committing the crime only to return when the time to initiate criminal action has elapsed. In other cases, sometimes the victims of this crime do not understand that it is a crime or they are slow to reveal it due to the threats they have been told.

And by the time they know and reveal it, prosecution of the offenders will not be possible due to the fact that the prescriptive period has elapsed.

The draft law provides for other prohibited acts with negative consequences which are not provided by law as offences yet there has been rise in such cases.

These are for example the cases of: public indecency and nudity; interfering with public auction, non-execution of a court decision willingly; and production, sale, distribution or importation of substandard or harmful products to human beings.

MP Frank Habineza questioned if these revisions were based on any research to show the reason why crimes are repetitive but also a need to explain nudity or else end up arresting many girls wearing miniskirts on social media.

“Rwandan women have a right to dress the modern way and it is only to make sure that it’s not nudity. A mini skirt makes people shout yet nudity is dependent on the observer,” Habineza said.

MPs Safari Begumisa and Jean Pierre Hindura asked why the maximum sentence of life in prison is reduced to 15 years which is very small and minimizes the essence of the punishment.

Minister Nyirahabimana said all is intended to give the judiciary the power to solve problems in society and the Chief Justice (CJ) will determine guidelines on how the judges are free to take decisions independently and serve justice.

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