By David Himbara
General Paul Kagame brags about being a defender of women’s rights. For example, Kagame cites the high number of women in Rwanda’s parliament as evidence for his feminist credentials. Currently, over 60% of Rwandan parliamentarians are women. Don’t be fooled by this.
Rwandan parliament is a rubber stamp. Parliamentarians in Kagame’s Rwanda are not elected by their constituents but enter parliament via political parties’ lists approved by Kagame. Crucially, the presence of a large number of women in the rubber stamp parliament has not changed the lives of Rwandan women who still live in dark ages.
In reality, women in Rwanda have yet to realize their basic rights including bodily autonomy and integrity. Rwanda is one of the dark countries around the world that still ban abortion altogether, with no explicit legal reason for exception. A pregnant woman living in such countries cannot legally terminate a pregnancy, even if it is the result of rape or incest, and whatever the consequences to the woman’s own health. Put in another way, in Rwanda, abortion is a crime as opposed to being a healthcare service accessible by all women to reduce preventable maternal mortality.
Shamelessly, on March 4, 2019, Kagame posed as a defender of women’s rights by pardoning 367 girls and women convicted for abortion offences. Shame — these women and girls should not be in prison in the first place.