By The Inspirer writer
Lack of knowledge about sign language is making the voice of people with disabilities, especially children, unable heard in settings such as hospitals, police and courts, which activities consider violence against them.
The concern was voiced on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in Kigali during the dissemination of findings of a study called “Violence Against Children and Youth with Disabilities A Qualitative Study, August 2018 in Institutional Settings in Rwanda.”
Louis Ngabonziza, Executive Director of Empowering Children with Disabilities (EmCD), a Nyabihu District-based centre that offers caring services to children with disabilities said that there should be programmes to train people in sign language so that they do not feel excluded from services such as healthcare and counseling.
“For instance, if a speech and hearing impaired person goes to hospital as he/she has a disease that they want to make a privacy, but a medic will need an interpreter to be able to understand his/her medical condition, it is also violence against them because their right to privacy has not been observed,” he said.
“Communities should be equipped with skills in sign language,” he requested.
Calling on government to accept sign language interpreters in court
Beata Kayisenga, Regional Coordinator of Ubuntu Care Project working on preventing sexual violence against children with and without disabilities in Rwanda and Kenya, said that the fact thatsign language interpreters are not accepted in courts, is a stumbling block for effective justice provision to children with disabilities.
The project she represents is under Humanity & Inclusion, an international non-governmental organisation.
She said that those who provide services to children who have suffered violence have an issue related to lack of knowledge in sign language.
“Judges, police. When a child with disabilities [such as speech impairment] goes to report his/her case, they sometimes do not understand it because they do not have that capacity,” she said adding that children with mental disability have also difficulties explaining their grievance,” she said calling for training for people who receive the complaints of children who were inflicted violence.
“The government does not accept the sign interpreters we have in Rwanda as people who can represent people in court. We should make advocacy so that if children with speech impairment have suffered from violence, the government should appoint someone to defend them in court,” she said.
Pastor Longin Ndayizera for Compassion International said that the government should recognisesign interpreters.
“If a lawyer [of the other party] says in court that they do not want the interpreter of the child who has underwent violence because the laws of Rwanda does not recognise the interpreter, this child might be done injustice because he/she will be struggling to stand trial on his/her own and is expressing herself through body language without an interpreter to make her case understandable to judges,” he said.
Kayisenga said that coherent child protection policy is needed to tackle violence against children, as well as ensure better service delivery given to children who have fallen victims of the violence.
She advocated for building awareness of children with disabilities about child protection and how to protect themselves from sexual violence.
Dr. Yvonne Kayiteshonga the Manager of Mental Health Division in Rwanda Biomedical Centre, and Principal Investigator in the aforementioned research said that some children or young people with disabilities do not report violence – like physical, sexual and emotional violence – committed against them because they do not have a conducive environment to encourage them.
“They fear further violence within family, being unable to express themselves because they are overwhelmed with what happened to them – trauma; the leadership is not close to them, they do not know that services given to or laws protecting victims of violence are in existence,” she said.
The study recommended, among other things, that safeguarding measures should be put in place to protect children and youth with disabilities from exploitation and abuse.
Rwanda has four official languages namely Kinyarwanda, English French and Kiswahili, but, hearing and speech impaired people cannot understand or speak any of them.
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