As number of girls being impregnated keeps growing every year, and government still struggling to find solution, some voices are calling for the cruelest of options.
According to Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF) data, in 2017 alone, 17,337 girls under 18 years were impregnated. The number rose to 19,832 as of December last year.
Eastern province had highest figures, with Nyagatare district recording 1,465 girls raped and they got pregnant. It was followed by Gatsibo district with 1,452 cases. Gasabo district in Kigali had 1,064 girls.
Campaigners now say part of the solution should be to change the language used to describe the problem. One wrote on social media that the language being used blames the 19,832 girls when it is reported as “girls impregnated”
Nsanga Sylvie wrote: “…We should say 19,832 children were raped [or] 19,832 rape cases found [or] 19,832 rapists… [because] there is no sex with [a] minor. Let denounce rapists too”.
Ideally, the obvious expectation should be that all the men involved are either in jail or facing prosecution. That, unfortunately, in not the case.
According to the National Public Prosecution Authority or the Office of the Prosecutor General, Jean Bosco Mutaganga, the suspects reported are not even 20% of men who abused girls.
In 2016, for example, 1,355 suspects were reported. The following year, the number increased slightly to 1,480 cases. Last year, the figure also rose to 1,673 suspects.
For 2019, between January and August, some 3,512 cases of sexual abuse have been reported to RIB.
However, not all of them were found guilty. The conviction rate was between 70-75 percent, according to Mutangana.
On a public awareness program on state broadcaster RBA which was also syndicated on other local stations on September 22, nearly every government body was represented, in addition to dozens of NGOs.
Each speaker struggled to appear like they understand what is really going on within our communities that is leaving girls unsafe everywhere. There is no single explanation as to why from over 19,000 cases, less than 1,700 were reported.
Some blamed cultural practices where parents prefer to keep their pregnant girl than go out there to report due to the societal stigma that comes with making it public. Some parents, it was said, also fear to report to police because they believe they will be blamed for failing to look after their daughter.
Some activists, who in recent times, have established themselves as some form of unofficial cultural police, say there is complete breakdown of Rwandan society where there is no longer people who do good.
In other words, the men abusing girls and impregnating them are simply a ‘representation of the evil society we have become’.
During that TV appearance, Gender Minister Amb. Nyirahabimana Solina, announced that government had decided to organize two-month national campaign against the issue. Beginning October, there are countless conferences, media adverts and village meetings – taking place all across Rwanda everyday.
The Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB) is on its own conducting a national tour, going from sector to another. There, its officers spend much of the time speaking about teenage pregnancies.
On social media, the anger against the men allegedly abusing girls is ever more visible.
One particular loud voice is that of outspoken chair of Transparency Rwanda, Ingabire Marie Immaculée. She is calling for “chemical [or] surgical castration” of all men suspected of abusing teenage girls.
Chemical castration is the use of “anaphrodisiac” drugs to lower sexual desire and libido, with minimum treatment lasting three to five years, according to studies done in Canada, Sweden and Denmark.
It has been trialled in these 3 countries with evidence from Scandinavia suggesting it can cut re-offending rates from 40 percent to 5 percent.
Chemical castration has been touted as a way to prevent convicted paedophiles from harming children.
The medical procedure is understood to suppress sexual urges and stop them from re-offending – but how does it work and how common is it?
“Umenya ari cyo cyabashora,” wrote Ingabire on Twitter, literary: “It seems to be the only way to manage them (men).”
Meanwhile, on Thursday, President Paul Kagame pardoned 52 women in jail who had been convicted of abortion.
Justice Minister and Attorney General Johnston Busingye said later that the 52 figure is 100% of all the women convicted of abortion. It means that right now, there is no woman in jail convicted of abortion.
This move has been touted as one of the steps needed to change the narrative that blames women for the negative consequences of sex.