Human Right

When children become victims

The government of Burundi summoned polygamists to choose one woman. Children rights activists and a psychologist denounce a “policy” with unfortunate consequences for children.

Jacques Nshimirimana: “The policy of regularizing common-law marriages will have repercussions on children”.

Jacques Nshimirimana: “The policy of regularizing common-law marriages will have repercussions on children”.

The decision was made in May 2017. In order to fight against gender-based violence, the Ministry of the Interior gave nine months to the concerned couples to legalize their marriages. Polygamists and polyandrous wives have to choose one partner.

FENADEB- Burundi National Federation of Child Rights Organizations warns against the danger behind this decision. It says, in an advocacy note, that this measure will necessarily affect the children of repudiated women.

For Jacques Nshimirimana, president of this federation, the man will tend to choose the woman with whom he has fewer children. “If the mother does not have sufficient means, the children will be exposed to a lack of necessary resources for their food, health care and education.”

However, those rights are recognised not only by the Burundian Constitution (Article 44) but also by the international legal texts which Burundi has signed.

According to this child rights activist, the minimum for the government is to take measures that go with this policy “and this by decree!”

The man should motivate his choice which should then be validated by the court. The government should guarantee the means of survival of the children after separation.

Moral grievance…

Jean-Marie Sindayigaya, a psychologist who is interested in childhood issues, goes further by mentioning the psychological effects on children from separated parents.

According to him, a child suddenly separated from one of his/her parents is much more touched, emotionally, than one who has never known one. He lives through “anxiety and depression”.

This pathology is total when the parent, especially the mother, never returns. In this case, the child suffers from certain pathologies related to the total affective deficiency including the “hospitalism syndrome “: always sad, inhibition, crying all the time, attitude to hold a person for whom s/he feels the affection, etc.

Pathology is partial when the parent visits children from time to time. There, they may suffer from partial emotional deprivation, the “anaclitic depression”. They have the same symptoms except that the latter are less intense, says the psychologist adding that children who are most affected are aged between 5 months and 3 years.

“For the normal psychosocial development of the child, therefore, the presence of both parents is essential,” says Sindayigaya adding that the mother represents the affection and the father the authority.

Moreover, in the process of socialization, the father has a significant role to play because of his authoritarian nature. “Some studies on delinquency prove that the boy who grew up without his father at his side is more likely to become a delinquent “.

Written by Clarisse Shaka. Translated by Bella Lucia Nininahazwe