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Human Rights in Rwanda
Flag of Rwanda Rwanda
Population: 7,954,013 (July 2004 est.)
Capital: Kigali
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Rwanda Human Rights Report
» intro | 1a | 1b | 1c | 1d | 1e | 1f | 2a | 2b | 2c | 2d | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6a | 6b | 6c | 6d | 6e | 6f

Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution provides that all citizens are equal before the law, without discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin, tribe, clan, color, sex, region, social origin, religion or faith opinion, economic status, culture, language, social status, or physical or mental disability. The Government generally enforced these provisions; however, problems remained.


Domestic violence against women was common and wife beating occurred frequently. Cases normally were handled within the context of the extended family and rarely came before the courts. When the Government did become involved, such as in cases involving serious injury, the courts handled such cases efficiently, leading to the conviction of numerous suspects. During the year, numerous rape trials resulted in convictions with the maximum sentences for perpetrators. Prosecutions for rape continued during the year; those convicted generally received sentences of from 20 to 30 years' imprisonment.

Prostitution and trafficking were problems (see Section 6.f.).

Women continued to face societal discrimination. Women traditionally performed most of the subsistence farming. Since the 1994 genocide, which left numerous women as heads of households, women have assumed a larger role in the modern sector, and many run their own businesses. Nevertheless, women continued to have limited opportunities for education, employment, and promotion. Government efforts to expand opportunities for women included a clause in the Constitution providing that at least 30 percent of the seats in parliament be reserved for women; women won approximately 40 percent of the seats during September legislative elections. Other efforts included the sponsorship of scholarships for girls in primary and secondary school, the provision of loans to rural women, and a Ministry of Gender program to train government officials and NGOs in methods to increase the role of women in the workforce. The Family Code generally improved the legal position of women in matters relating to marriage, divorce, and child custody. The law allows women to inherit property from their fathers and husbands, and allows couples to choose the legal property arrangements they wish to adopt.

The Ministry of Gender and Women in Development was charged with handling problems of particular concern to women, and the Minister was an active advocate of women's rights. A number of women's groups were extremely active in promoting women's concerns, particularly those faced by widows, orphaned girls, and households headed by children.


The Government was committed to children's rights and welfare, and it attempted to provide education and health care to every child. Children headed at least 65,000 households. The Government worked closely with international NGOs to secure assistance for children who were heads of households, and sensitized local officials to the needs of children in such situations. More than 98 percent of the children who were separated from or lost their parents during the 1994 genocide and subsequent repatriations have been reunited with family members or placed in foster homes.

In June, the Government announced that all primary school fees would be waived. The fees were waived; however, in some districts, near the end of the term, principals refused to give out grades unless persons paid the fees. School fees routinely were waived for orphans. Public schools lacked essential and basic supplies and could not accommodate all children of primary school age. A UNICEF study reported that 400,000 school-age children were unable to go to school in 1999. Private schools often were too distant or too expensive to serve as an alternative for many children. Examination decided entry to secondary school.

According to a UNICEF report published during the year, 67 percent of primary school-age boys and girls were enrolled in school. Of the children who enter the first grade, 78 percent reach the fifth grade. Approximately 74 percent of men were literate compared with 60 percent of women.

Child prostitution was a problem (see Section 6.f.).

Both the Government and non-state militias have used children as soldiers in past conflicts. However, the Government no longer recruited children into its security forces. The Government's program of demobilization and reintegration continued during the year, with a number of child soldiers being among those moved through the program back to civilian life. The Government participated in an International Labor Organization (ILO)- International Program for Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) program to prevent the involvement of children in armed conflicts and support the rehabilitation of former child soldiers. There were credible reports that in some regions, children were recruited to work for the LDF; however, these were isolated cases.

There were reports that Congolese children were transferred to the country for military training (see Section 1.f.).

Child labor was a problem (see Section 6.d.).

There were approximately 6,000 street children throughout the country. Local authorities rounded up street children and placed them in foster homes or government-run facilities. The Gitagata Center still housed approximately 700 children, the majority of whom were rounded up in December. During the year, approximately 25 girls, who were subject to sexual abuse in the center, were removed and placed in a new center only for girls, managed by the Catholic Church. The Government opened a "Childcare Institution" in each of the 12 provinces that served as safe houses for street children, providing shelter and basic needs. The Government continued to work with NGOs throughout the year to address the question of street children.

There continued to be reports that RCD/Goma and UPC rebel troops abducted young women from the villages they raided in the DRC, to serve primarily as porters or sex workers.

Persons with Disabilities

Although there were no laws restricting persons with disabilities from employment, education, or other state services, in practice, few persons with disabilities had access to education or employment. There was no law mandating access to public facilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Before 1994, an estimated 85 percent of citizens were Hutu, 14 percent were Tutsi, and 1 percent were Batwa (Twa). However, Hutus and Tutsis were not clearly distinct groups, since the two have intermarried for generations. The 1994 mass killings and migrations probably affected the ethnic composition of the population, but the extent and nature of the changes remained unknown.

With the removal of ethnic labels from identification cards, the Batwa no longer were officially designated as an ethnic group. During the year, there were approximately 23,000 Batwa in the country, which represented less than 1 percent of the population. The Batwa, survivors of the Twa (pygmy) tribes of the mountainous forest areas bordering the DRC, existed on the margins of society and continued to be treated as inferior citizens by both the Hutu and Tutsi groups.

The Community of Indigenous Peoples of Rwanda (CAURWA), an advocacy group for the Batwa, reported that Biturira, a Batwa genocide suspect detained at Gikongoro prison, died in a pit latrine in July 2002. The man had been sent into the latrine by a prison guard to fetch a mobile phone that had fallen into the latrine. At the year's end, no investigation had been made into his death.

There were seven Batwa organizations focused on the protection of their interests, which included access to land, housing and education, and the eradication of discrimination against them; however, they generally were unable to protect their interests due to government restrictions on using ethnic labels. Because the Government no longer recognized ethnicity, the Batwa were unable to argue that they needed special services. Few Batwa had been educated formally. There was one Batwa on the NCHR, and no Batwa in the Senate, despite a constitutional provision that allows the president the right to appoint 4 members to the Senate "who shall ensure the representation of historically marginalized communities."

Large-scale interethnic violence in the country between Hutus and Tutsis has erupted on three occasions since independence in 1962, resulting on each occasion in tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths. The most recent and severe outbreak of such violence, in 1994, involved genocidal killing of much of the Tutsi population under the direction of a Hutu-dominated government and in large part implemented by Hutu-dominated armed forces called the ex-FAR and Interahamwe militia. That genocide ended later the same year when a predominately Tutsi militia, operating out of Uganda and occupied Rwandan territory, overthrew that government and established the Government of National Unity, which was composed of members of eight political parties and which ruled until the elections in August and September. Since 1994, the Government has called for national reconciliation and committed itself to abolishing policies of the former government that had created and deepened ethnic cleavages. The new constitution provides for the eradication of ethnic, regional, and other divisions and the promotion of national unity. Some organizations and individuals accused the Government of favoring Tutsis, particularly English-speaking Tutsis, in government employment, admission to professional schooling, recruitment into or promotion within the army, and other matters; however, the Government continued to deny this charge.

Incitement to Acts of Discrimination

During the year, the ICTR convicted and sentenced former media executives and journalists to prison terms for promoting racial hatred and inciting acts of violence against Tutsis and moderate Hutus during the 1994 genocide (see Section 4).

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