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Adoption of new law must be accompanied by measures to ensure its implementation

Despite the official discourse promoting gender equality, gender-based violence continues to be committed on a massive scale in Rwanda. (According to a recent police report, a woman is raped every six hours).

The long-awaited law on the prevention and punishment of gender based violence is expected to be published in March 2009. It is now in the promulgation phase following approval by both chambers of parliament last year. Activists have been pushing for its adoption in order to reduce cases of gender based violence in the country. The new law defines and sanctions different forms of gender based violence that were not previously criminalized under national law, such as marital rape.

The news that this much-needed law is finally to be published is to be welcomed. However, as the Campaign "Africa for women's rights: ratify and respect!" emphasizes, the adoption of texts, whilst necessary, is not enough. The rights of women in Rwanda will only be protected if the government puts in place all necessary measures to ensure that this law is applied in practice. This represents the true test of whether the Rwandan government has the political will to combat the scourge of violence against women.