In Rwanda, Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) has been a widespread problem for women and girls both during the genocide and in the current peacetime. While incidences of SGBV lessened after the war and genocide, patterns of violence continue even today. Gender-based violence is probably the most socially tolerated of human rights violations and in Rwanda, spousal battery, sexual abuse, and rape are prevalent to the proportions of 57.2% according to a masculinity study that was conducted by the Rwanda men’s Resource Centre. Women and child abuse is perpetrated mostly by men, and this is due to negative masculine behaviors that partly stem from negative cultural beliefs/norms and practices, and the recent history of the country in which rape was used as a genocide weapon to dehumanize and inflict suffering to women survivors. This situation continues even now in the peace time, and women and children continue to face the consequences despite the government will to provide conducive environment for effective protection of women and children’s rights and welfare. From 2006 to 2009, the police received and handled approximately 9,827 cases of women abuse and child defilement countrywide, and this represented on average more than 82% of survivors of gender-based violence were girls under 18, whereas women represented more or less than 17%.
Despite the development of appropriate policies and the enactment of different laws that promote gender equality, prevent and punish acts of SGBV, gender-based violence continues to hold back gender promotion and other development efforts. This is main attributed to cultural norms, misunderstanding and misinterpretation of gender concept; limited awareness on human rights, culture of silence due to stigma; poor communication on sexuality within the family, limited community dialogue on sexual and gender- based violence, gender roles and norms that vest men with greater access to and control over power and resources.
It is also worth noting that there are insufficient GBV prevention initiatives (including education, mass mobilization, mentoring programs, etc) throughout the country that can effectively help to eliminate GBV in communities. There are insufficient and inadequate services for survivors of GBV in terms of psycho-therapy and social support, legal aid, medical services and other appropriate services to survivors of GBV.
Despite the fallbacks mentioned, the Rwanda National Police was able to realize in 2001 that a special desk was necessary to comprehensively investigate cases of SGBV and to conduct mass campaigns as a way of prevention mechanism. In 2009 however, the Police recognized the need to have a holistic package of services in one place to reduce on the costs and time spent by victims before accessing services and for timely justice thus established Isange One Stop Center at Kacyiru Police Hospital. The word Isange is a Kinyarwanda word literally meaning “feel at home”.