Rwandan women demand conjugal rights with incarcerated spouses

Rwandan inmates at the country's main prison 1930.

Rwandan inmates at the country’s main prison 1930.

Wives of Rwandan incarcerated convicts are now demanding that the country’s human rights commission considers revisiting the rights of inmates to have conjugal meetings with their spouses during the course of their jail terms.

The women who have their spouses in jail argue that the crimes committed by the convicted persons should not affect their family/love relationships and their spouses living outside shouldn’t be denied a right to sex.

“We are not criminals and it’s our natural right to have a relationship with the man you are married to, and children instead of being tempted to sleep around,” one Uwimana (wife to a convicted criminal) told this website

The Rwanda Human rights commission says that the conjugal argument is a valid one but the requests cannot be met because the country’s laws do not provide for such options for prisoners

“This is a complicated issue and each country has its own laws. For now, the guideline is that the prisoners are denied some of the rights once convicted” Nirere Madeleine, the head of the commission, told local journalists.

Only internationally convicted criminals like the Sierra Leone war criminals serving life sentences in Rwanda , are allowed to have conjugal rights with their spouses.

The numbers of Rwandan inmates has increased in jail facilities especially after the special genocide courts (Gacaca) ended, and the majority is men.

Currently Rwandan prisons are overcrowded with most of the inmates facing or are convicted of genocide crimes.

The Sierra Leonean war crimes convicts in Rwanda include: Issa Sesay, Morris Kallon, Alex Tamba Brima, Santigie Borbor Kanu, Ibrahim Bazzy Kamara, Augustine Gboa and Musa Kondowa. One Moinina Fofana was granted early conditional release in May from Mpanga Prison in Nyanza district.

In 2008, when the issue of conjugal rights was first raised by the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the Rwandan government blasted the policy as “ridiculous and a mockery of the justice process.”