RWANDA: I'm Calling for a Militantly Feminist FFRP

Sunday, July 24, 2011
The New Times
Central Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security

Next Friday, the Rwanda Women Parliamentary Forum (FFRP) will celebrate 15 years of existence and, if the news conference members held is anything to go by, they are pretty pleased with themselves.

They took the opportunity to highlight their achievements in championing women rights and gender equality, and truth be told, there are some awesome achievements.

Rwandan women now have equal rights to property and inheritance, and can sign contracts with banks without the permission of their husbands.

But I have a bone to pick with women members of parliament. My 'beef' is with the fact that, despite their numbers in the law-making chambers, some of the laws they help enact aren't exactly pro-women.

For instance the law on abortion. While the old penal law forbade abortion, unless in cases of life and death for the mother, I thought that the draft criminal code would be different.

According to the draft law, abortions will be performed in case of incest and rape. However, I don't think that is good enough. One would assume that a parliament full of women would do all it could to fight for a woman's right to choose, but not ours.

Which brings me to the point of this column today; do women in leadership roles necessarily know what is right, and good for other women? I think not.

I can understand why my views might sound a little controversial, however bear with me. I have to ask, how many of the pro-women laws that we've enacted, are a direct result of the women's caucus?

Wouldn't a male-dominated parliament have changed the laws on inheritance? Wouldn't they have reformed the property laws? I believe that they would have done so.

So, again I must ask what have the members of the FFRP done that can be attributed directly to them? I'm sorry but I can't think of a single law or amendment.

So, honourable FFRP members pat yourselves on the back, but it's my hope that I will see a more militant FFRP caucus driving a more pro-women agenda in the next couple of years.

On another note, I must say that I was shocked by the terrorist attack in Norway. More than 80 people have lost their lives and all I can wonder is why?

How can someone refuse to value the life of their fellow human being? Whether it's based on religious fundamentalism, or simply right-wing hate, it is all horribly wrong.

How someone decides to pick up a gun and mow down children is simply baffling to me. It was rather interesting how I, and I believe a lot of other people, automatically looked for an Islamic angle.

I guess I have become somewhat prejudiced; somehow Islam has become synonymous with terrorism, which is a bloody shame because Islam is actually a religion of peace.

I'm pleased that this bias wasn't proved to be based on fact in this sad circumstance; the ensuring debate won't be along the tired 'Islam is a violent religion' line. A wider debate on what causes such an attack is guaranteed and I believe that that is a good thing.

I find it rather interesting that the biggest stories in the international media are the Norway attacks, the failing US budget talks between President Obama and Speaker Boehner and the phone hacking scandal in Britain.

All while hundreds of thousands of people are in danger of starvation in Somalia. One has to wonder what people's priorities are.

* Opinion by Sunny Ntayombya