Burundi: No Protection from Rape in War and Peace

Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Amnesty International
Central Africa

The most commonly reported form of sexual violence in Burundi is rape, and is committed by both state and non-state actors, including law enforcement officials and military officers.1 Rape of women and girls is prevalent in the home and in the community and the problem is widespread throughout Burundi.2 Between 2004 and 2006 an average of 1,346 women a year reported their cases to Médecins sans Frontières (MSF). Minors are also particularly at risk: in December 2006, 60 per cent of reported rapes were committed against minors.3 The Burundian authorities are failing to exercise due diligence4 to prevent, investigate and punish rape and other sexual violence and the perpetrators escape prosecution and punishment by the state. These systemic failures have engendered a climate where rape victims are less willing or able to pursue criminal proceedings. The rate of successful prosecutions for sexual offences is still very low. A clear message must be delivered by the government now: violence against women is a violation of human rights which cannot be tolerated, rape is a crime, perpetrators must be brought to justice and victims must be offered compensation.

It is difficult to determine current levels of sexual violence with any accuracy in the absence of reliable official statistics. The government does not have an independent monitoring system which would allow it to publicly report on the prevalence of rape and other forms of sexual violence and the effectiveness of the responses by the relevant authorities.

Poverty, a patriarchal society, and a culture in which rape and sexual violence are not taken seriously, contribute to a situation where many women are too afraid to report the crimes. Many women victims of rape fail to seek redress and are not supported by the state, the community and their family. Women often do not report rape because they fear reprisal attacks from the perpetrator. Furthermore, women in Burundi are subjected to various forms of gender discrimination, including the social stigma to which rape victims are subjected by their community. Victims frequently spoke to Amnesty International and Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture (ACAT) about their feelings of shame after being raped. A common misconception is that rape is the victim's fault: a result of the victim's behaviour or the clothes she wears. The victim's family, friends and community often ostracize the victim, leaving her alone and destitute. Certain customary practices which deny women certain rights, including the right to own or inherit property or the land they work on, increases the economic dependency of women on men.5 Some victims of rape told Amnesty International and ACAT delegates about their reluctance to instigate legal proceedings for fear that they may lose the economic support of their family or spouse. Other economic factors contribute further to the vulnerability of women, including poverty, a lack of education, access to information and health care.

to read the full article: www.amnestyusa.org/document.php