Burundi: Gender-based violence (GBV), including domestic and sexual violence; impact of COVID-19; state protection and support services available (2019–July 2021) [BDI200701.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. GBV

Bertelsmann Stiftung's Transformation Index (BTI) 2020, which "assesses the transformation toward democracy and a market economy as well as the quality of governance in 137 countries" and covers the period from February 2017 to January 2019, notes that "[v]iolence against women and girls is rampant" (Bertelsmann Stiftung 2020, 2, 13). The same source indicates that violence against women in Burundi includes, rape, forced prostitution, "housemaids who are treated like slave labor," and marital violence (Bertelsmann Stiftung 2020, 24).

The 2020 report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi indicates that sexual violence and GBV involves "mostly" women and girls, but that men are also affected (UN 13 Aug. 2020, para. 58). The same source states that sexual violence and GBV is "aimed at intimidating, controlling, repressing or punishing women and men for their supposed or actual political opinions, their refusal to join the ruling party or their links with an armed movement" (UN 13 Aug. 2020, para. 58). The UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi report indicates that sexual violence and GBV includes incidents of gang rape, as well as "the infliction of blows or burns on the genitals, buttocks or breasts and cases of forced nudity" (UN 13 Aug. 2020, para. 58). The same source notes that this violence "was committed mainly by members of the Imbonerakure [1] or the police during visits or attacks on the victims' homes, but also in the context of arrest or detention by the National Intelligence Service [Service national de renseignement (SNR)]" (UN 13 Aug. 2020, para. 58). The 2021 Freedom House annual report notes that "[w]omen are often targeted for rape" if they or their spouses refuse to join the ruling party, the National Council for the Defence of Democracy – Forces for the Defence of Democracy (Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces de défense de la démocratie, CNDD-FDD) (Freedom House 3 Mar. 2021, Sec. C1, G3).

In its annual statistics report, Burundi's Ministry of National Solidarity, Social Affairs, Human Rights and Gender (ministère de la Solidarité nationale, des Affaires sociales, des Droits de la personne humaine et du Genre) provides the following statistics for 2019: 1,374 women and 95 men were victims of sexual violence; 2,439 women and 322 men were victims of physical violence; and 37 women and 36 men were killed as a result of sexual violence and GBV (Burundi 2019, 61–62, 62–63, 65–66). A report on the review of the Government of Burundi for the period from 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021 by Ligue burundaise des droits de l'homme Iteka (Ligue Iteka) [2] indicates that during this period 102 cases of sexual violence and GBV were identified, including 20 cases in Muramvya province, 16 cases in Karuzi province, 15 cases in Kayanza province, and 11 cases Rutana province (Ligue Iteka 4 July 2021, 8).

2. COVID-19 and GBV

Information on COVID-19 and GBV in Burundi was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. An April 2021 report on the impact of COVID-19 on women in East and Southern Africa by the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and UN Population Fund (UNFPA) notes that 27.9 percent of respondents in Burundi "reported having experienced violence in the past 12 months by current/previous partners" (UN 1 Apr. 2021, xxi). A December 2020 report by the Concertation of Collectives of Women's Associations in the Great Lakes region (Concertation des collectifs des associations féminines de la région des Grands-Lacs, COCAFEM/GL) [3] on the impact of COVID-19 on sexual violence and GBV, based on a review of documents, interviews, and two focus groups with individuals in Bujumbura, indicates that [translation] "some women who do cross-border trade experience[d] domestic violence they had never suffered due to the situation of destitution and vulnerability caused by COVID-19" (COCAFEM/GL Dec. 2020, 14–15, 21). The same source reports that [translation] "frontline actors indicate that they have not recorded cases of [sexual violence and GBV] attributable to COVID-19" (COCAFEM/GL Dec. 2020, 26). The report notes that [translation] "[s]ome" support centres report that cases of sexual violence and GBV have increased but "[t]hey are reluctant to attribute them to COVID-19" (COCAFEM/GL Dec. 2020, 26). The same source indicates that in [translation] "some provinces, there has been a greater commitment to the fight against [sexual violence and GBV] by the administration," with "some" local councils putting sexual violence and GBV on the agenda for weekly safety meetings (COCAFEM/GL Dec. 2020, 26).

3. Legislation

Law No. 1/13 of 22 September 2016 on Prevention, Protection of Victims, and Repression of Gender-based Violence (Loi n°1/13 du 22 septembre 2016 portant prévention, protection des victimes et répression des violences basées sur le genre) provides the following:

[translation]

Article 6: No one may threaten another person or deprive them of their rights with a view to carrying out against them an act of gender-based violence.

Article 11: In each police station, a specialized unit or focal point for gender-based violence will be established that receives technical support from a psychologist and/or social worker subject to the approval of the Ministry of Public Safety.

Article 13: The Government will foster the early detection of gender-based violence and the integrated care of victims through social, health, legal and educational institutions.

In gender-based violence cases, the courts must require that the victim and the perpetrator undergo a medical assessment and testing for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, performed by the appropriate health institutions, in order to accurately assess the extent of the harm.

The perpetrator will reimburse all expenses incurred by the State once the judgment has been rendered.

Article 19: The State will establish crisis centres and shelters to assist victims immediately after an incident occurs and to protect victims from their attackers until the matter is resolved by the appropriate authority.

Article 20: Crisis centres will provide immediate emergency social services to victims of gender-based violence. The centres will be designed to respond to urgent needs and to provide victims with ongoing, multidisciplinary support through a holistic response that includes medical, psychosocial, legal, judicial and social rehabilitation services.

Article 27: Spousal rape as defined in article 2(i) is punishable by 15 to 30 days’ imprisonment or a fine of 10,000 to 50,000 [approximately C$6.32 to C$31.58] Burundian francs or both. (Burundi 2016)

Information on the implementation of this law could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Law No. 1/05 of 22 April 2009 on the Revision of the Penal Code (Loi n°1/05 du 22 avril 2009 portant révision du Code pénal) provides the following on domestic violence: [translation] "Article 535: Any person who subjects their spouse, child or any other person living with them to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment is punishable by imprisonment for three to five years and by a fine of fifty thousand francs" (Burundi 2009).

4. State Protection

Information on state protection and GBV was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi notes that

most victims of sexual violence have received direct or indirect threats and have not dared to report on the perpetrators or to seek assistance. This is inter alia due to the high number of perpetrators who are members of the security forces or the Imbonerakure, who have continued to enjoy almost total impunity. (UN 13 Aug. 2020, para. 59)

The BTI 2020 states that "[r]apes and violence against women are rarely prosecuted" (Bertelsmann Stiftung 2020, 24).

A May 2021 article by the Ministry of National Solidarity, Social Affairs, Human Rights and Gender indicates that specialized sections have been created at the Court of Appeal, the High Court, and the Public Prosecutor's Offices for the [translation] "rapid treatment" of sexual violence and GBV cases (Burundi 28 May 2021).

5. Support Services

The 2019 annual statistics report by Burundi's Ministry of National Solidarity, Social Affairs, Human Rights and Gender indicates that in 2019 1,020 women and 150 men received [translation] "medical care for victims of [sexual violence and GBV]," defined as a system set up by the state to provide "urgent medical assistance" to victims of sexual violence and GBV (Burundi 2019, 60, 67). The same source reports that 396 women and 81 men received [translation] "socio-economic care for victims of sexual and gender-based violence" in 2019 (Burundi 2019, 68–69). According to the report, 4,957 women and 851 men received [translation] "psychological care for victims of sexual and gender-based violence" (Burundi 2019, 69–70). The same source reports that 3,241 women and 394 men received [translation] "legal assistance for victims of sexual and gender-based violence" in 2019 (Burundi 2019, 70–71).

The December 2020 COCAFEM/GL report indicates that there are four public centres, located in Cibitoke, Gitega, Makamba, and Muyinga, for care related to sexual violence and GBV (COCAFEM/GL Dec. 2020, 8). The same source notes the number of cases referred to these public centres since 2017:

[translation]

Year [Centre] in Cibitoke [Centre] in Gitega [Centre] in Makamba [Centre] in Muyinga Total all [centres]
2017 275 1190 260 236 1961
2018 809 1180 610 660 3259
2019 852 1166 672 866 3556
Jan. to Nov. 2020   1169      
TOTAL 1936 3536 1542 1762 8776

(COCAFEM/GL Dec. 2020, 8, emphasis in original)

The May 2021 article by the Ministry of National Solidarity, Social Affairs, Human Rights and Gender reports that there are five public centers that support survivors of sexual violence and GBV (Burundi 28 May 2021).

5.1 Examples of Non-Governmental Support Services

According to the December 2020 COCAFEM/GL report, there are three private centres that support survivors of sexual violence and GBV: Centre Seruka, Centre Nturengaho, and Centre Inabeza (COCAFEM/GL Dec. 2020, 9).

The Collective of Women's Associations and NGOs of Burundi (Collectif des associations et ONGs féminines du Burundi, CAFOB) [4] and the Association of Women Jurists of Burundi (Association des femmes juristes du Burundi, AFJB) [5] operate six [translation] "integrated support services centres" for survivors of GBV located in the provinces of Bururi, Muramvya, and Mwaro (CAFOB n.d.b). These centres provide psychological and legal support to survivors of GBV (CAFOB n.d.b).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Notes

[1] The Imbonerakure are members of the youth league of the ruling party, the National Council for the Defence of Democracy - Forces for the Defence of Democracy (Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces de défense de la démocratie, CNDD-FDD) (Freedom House 3 Mar. 2021, Sec. B1). For further information on the Imbonerakure, see Responses to Information Request BDI106060 of February 2018 and BDI200702 of July 2021.

[2] The Ligue burundaise des droits de l'homme Iteka (Ligue Iteka) is [translation] "the first Burundian human rights organization to be legally recognized to work openly in Burundi"; it "is ranked as one of the organizations with more field representation, notably through offices and human rights observers based in every province of the country and, in some locations, at the communal level" (Ligue Iteka n.d.).

[3] The Concertation of Collectives of Women's Associations in the Great Lakes region (Concertation des collectifs des associations féminines de la région des Grands-Lacs, COCAFEM/GL) is a collective of 11 women led organizations in the Great Lakes region, including three collectives in Burundi (COCAFEM/GL n.d.). COCAFEM/GL "was created to encourage the participation of women in regional and national development programs, to contribute to the advancement and position of women in governance and leadership" (COCAFEM/GL n.d.).

[4] The Collective of Women's Associations and NGOs of Burundi (Collectif des associations et ONGs féminines du Burundi, CAFOB) is a collective of 72 Burundian women's associations and NGOs (CAFOB n.d.a).

[5] The Association of Women Jurists of Burundi (Association des femmes juristes du Burundi, AFJB) is an NGO that provides free legal assistance to women in Burundi (50MAWS n.d.).

References

50 Million African Women Speak (50MAWS). N.d. "Accès à la terre au Burundi." [Accessed 19 July 2021]

Bertelsmann Stiftung. 2020. "Burundi Country Report." Bertelsmann Stiftung's Transformation Index (BTI) 2020. [Accessed 28 June 2021]

Burundi. 28 May 2021. Ministère de la Solidarité nationale, des Affaires sociales, des Droits de la personne humaine et du Genre. "Des avancées significatives en matière de lutte contre les VBSG au Burundi." By Elie Harindavyi. [Accessed 16 July 2021]

Burundi. 2019. Ministère de la Solidarité nationale, des Affaires sociales, des Droits de la personne humaine et du Genre. Annuaire statistique du ministère de la Solidarité nationale, des Affaires sociales, des Droits de la personne humaine et du Genre, édition 2019. [Accessed 11 June 2021]

Burundi. 2016. Loi n°1/13 du 22 septembre 2016 portant prévention, protection des victimes et répression des violences basées sur le genre. Excerpts translated by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada. [Accessed 16 July 2021]

Burundi. 2009. Loi n°1/05 du 22 avril 2009 portant révision du Code pénal. Excerpt translated by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada. [Accessed 16 July 2021]

Collectif des associations et ONGs féminines du Burundi (CAFOB). N.d.a. "À propos de CAFOB." [Accessed 19 July 2021]

Collectif des associations et ONGs féminines du Burundi (CAFOB). N.d.b. "Les Centres d'accompagnement intégrés des victimes des VBG, une consolation pour les victimes." [Accessed 19 July 2021]

Concertation des collectifs des associations féminines de la région des Grands-Lacs (COCAFEM/GL). December 2020. Étude sur l'impact de la COVID sur le genre et les VSBG au Burundi. [Accessed 11 June 2021]

Concertation des collectifs des associations féminines de la région des Grands-Lacs (COCAFEM/GL). N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 19 July 2021]

Freedom House. 3 March 2021. "Burundi." Freedom in the World 2021. [Accessed 16 July 2021]

Ligue burundaise des droits de l'homme Iteka (Ligue Iteka). 4 July 2021. Rapport bilan du gouvernement du Burundi, du 30 juin 2020 au 30 juin 2021. [Accessed 16 July 2021]

Ligue burundaise des droits de l'homme Iteka (Ligue Iteka). N.d. "À propos." [Accessed 19 July 2021]

United Nations (UN). 1 April 2021. UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in East and Southern Africa. [Accessed 19 July 2021]

United Nations (UN). 13 August 2020. Human Rights Council. Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi. (A/HRC/45/32) [Accessed 28 June 2021]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Association des femmes juristes du Burundi; Association Dushirehamwe; Burundi – ministère de la Solidarité nationale, des Affaires sociales, des Droits de la personne humaine et du Genre; Collectif des associations et ONGs féminines du Burundi; Concertation des collectifs des associations féminines de la région des Grands-Lacs; Mama's for Burundi Association; UN – UN Population Fund Burundi, WHO Burundi.

Internet sites, including: African Development Bank; Agence burundaise de presse; Agence France-Presse; Amnesty International; Association burundaise pour la protection des droits humains et des personnes détenues; Association Dushirehamwe; Australia – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; BBC; Burundi – ministère de la Sécurité publique; Cadre associatif des solidaires du Burundi; Commission nationale indépendante des droits de l'homme du Burundi; Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) International; CBC; ecoi.net; Factiva; Fédération internationale pour les droits humains; Forum pour la conscience et le développement; France – Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides; Friends Women's Association; Gender and COVID-19; Human Rights Watch; L'Initiative pour les droits humains au Burundi; Institut Panos Grands Lacs; International Committee of the Red Cross – Burundi Red Cross; Mama's for Burundi Association; Radio France internationale; Radio Inzamba; Radio Isanganiro; Radio publique africaine; Radio télévision nationale du Burundi; Réseau des citoyens probes; SOS médias Burundi; UK – Home Office; UN – International Organization for Migration, Office of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, Refworld, UNICEF, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, WHO Burundi; US – Department of State, US Agency for International Development.