The Rwandan culture attributes families’ responsibilities and respect to the man who currently is also the family’s leader. Yet, with the new family law, both partners are now allowed to decide who should lead the family regardless of sex.
Some citizens are not aware of this new law and have raised various views on how things should be done to decide who can be the head of the family.
Emile Rukazabyuma, a vendor in Muhanga District-town market in Southern Province who is also the citizen in the area said that the family’s development requires the complementarity based on gender equity and equality between two partners.
“A woman is a human being as a man, so they can complement each other to plan the progress of their family. The voice of a woman is the same as the one of the man.”
Rukazabyuma is not against the law as he says it is the power for gender equality. He gives an example of when the husband is not around where the woman can stay heading the family.
“Women have become powerful in various developmental initiatives such as doing business; they manage to do everything which was before among men’s responsibilities such as paying taxes.” Rukazabyuma noted
Alfred Rudahunga, 32 with two children and a wife does not know about the new family law that introduces that both partners can agree up on who may be the head of the family.
He noted that gender equality should not be interpreted as conflict between a husband and a wife.
“ It seems like a woman is given all the responsibilities of the family, it will be difficult to hand the man’s responsibilities to the woman, the woman can change behaviors after being head of the family and can feel powerful than her husband,” Rudahunga noted.
Berthilde Mukamusoni,49, said that a man is always the head of the family and that there is no meaning for a woman to be the family chief.
“ A man will always be the man, only that we can share tasks and help each other to accomplish the family’s tasks, I appreciate that he remains the head of the family,” said Mukamusoni.
Jean Paul Kalisa, 40, with one child and a wife is a citizen of Byimana sector in Ruhango district. For him it does not make matter when a woman becomes the head of the family.
“Much as she could be capable and willing to share her contribution in developing the family, she can also be the leader of the family,” said Kalisa, adding that respecting each other is the most cornerstones that should help towards achieving this move.
Stephanie Mukagatare, a market vendor in Muhanga town said “It does not matter and it can depend on how both partners have agreed up on that issue, a man like the only head of the family was in the spirit of our elders, but today a woman who can work to support the family can also be its leader with shared consent of her husband, they have to first of all sit together and plan, no one can give out decisions without having a common talk before.” noted Mukagatare.
According to Muhanga district Mayor Béatrice Uwamariya, there is a plan that during the legal aid week that is coming in this March, various government entities will visit citizens to tackle regal related issues they have.
“We will partner with legal experts and other government entities to further explain the family law to the citizens and married couples,” She said.
“Everything which is new has some difficulties, the law can be complicated for both men and women for its implementation. It is the reason why we need to educate, it is the same as gender equality was complicating citizens at the beginning.” She added.
Uwamariya said that the past family law could defy the economic rights of women where men used to freely give the common property of the family after drinking alcohol in bars.
She explained that some resistance of some people against the law can appear but explaining that the law is all about solidarity other than social conflict.
“Both have the same role to play the responsibilities of their family and strive to work for their family. They should also share equitably the income of what they have produced,”
Uwamariya noted that they will explain the new family law to the citizens during the regal aid campaign to help them understand it properly.
The new law No 32/2016 of 28/08/2016 governing persons and family was established in the official gazette of 12/09/2016. It replaced the one of 27/10/1988 and it has 333 articles whereas the previous one had 458 articles.
By Elias Hakizimana