University of Sussex
Bizimungu, Christophe.pdf (2.42 MB)

An examination of the impacts of rape myths and gender bias on the legal process for rape in Rwanda

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posted on 2023-06-09, 17:30 authored by Christophe Bizimungu
This thesis is an exploration of the legal process for rape in Rwanda, aimed at examining whether this process is influenced by rape myths, as revealed in many Western jurisdictions. To achieve this, the study adopted a socio-legal approach to empirical research, triangulating three methods: interviews, observations and document analysis. Fifty interviews were carried out with forty participants including judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers and rape victim-survivors. Ten court observations were conducted across the country and 276 prosecution and court files were analysed in this research. The results revealed that the legal process for rape in Rwanda is profoundly influenced by rape myths. This finding is evidence that similar rape myths may exist in very different socio-cultural contexts and legal systems. Some of the myths revealed are the belief that a “genuine” rape victim is someone who is chaste, who physically resists the assault and promptly reports the incident to the authorities; as well as the conviction that women tend to make false allegations of rape. These misconceptions extensively influence prosecutors’ and judges’ decision-making in rape cases. Their conclusions are typically characterised by misapprehensions about rape and rape victims, which results in many defendants being discharged on erroneous grounds. The cases that go through the legal process and which secure conviction are overwhelmingly those that conform to the “real rape” myth. Other complaints of rape are systematically dismissed regardless of their contents. These effects of rape myths on the legal process are undermining in an invisible way the campaign against sexual violence in Rwanda. The thesis exposes this hidden problem in order to contribute to improving the Rwandan criminal justice system’s response to sexual violence.


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