Burundi

Burundi is ranked 51 out of 86 in the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

The country was ranked 50 out of 102 in the 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

The 2011 Human Development Index for Burundi is 0.316, which places the country 185th out of 187 countries with data. Burundi's Gender-related Development Index is 0.478, giving the country a rank of 89th out of 146 countries. The Wold Economic Forum ranked Burundi 24th out of 135 countries with a score of 0.7270 in The Global Gender Gap Report 2011.

Discriminatory Family Code: 

The Code of Person and Family was modified in 1993, to amend discriminatory provisions. Despite having a formal legal system that ensures gender equality, important aspects of family life (such as matrimonial arrangements, succession, legacies and gifts related to marriage) are still governed by customary law.[7]  A key challenge has been the lack of awareness and understanding of the reforms at a community level due to limited publicity from the Government.[8]

Under article 88 of the Code of the Person and the Family, the legal age of marriage in Burundi is 18 years for women and 21 years. However, exceptions to these provisions can be approved by the Provincial Governor.[9]  Forced marriages are prohibited under article 29 of the Constitution.[10]

The United Nations reports, based on 2002 data, that 7 percent of girls between 15-19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed.[11]  However, UNICEF reports, based on 2007 data that 18 per cent of women aged 20–24 years who were married or in union before they were 18 years old.[12]  Data indicates that adolescent pregnancies have also decreased, with the adolescent fertility rate dropping from 53 in 1999 to 30 in 2001 (births per 1000 women aged 15-19).[13]

Polygamy is illegal in Burundi. However, the practice is still known to occur, especially amongst ethnic groups living on the Imbo and Moso plains, which are somewhat remote border regions. Polygamy has resurfaced in recent years, partly in response to the conflict and crisis.[14]

According to the 1993 amendments, men and women share parental authority, and have equal rights and responsibilities in regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship and adoption of children.[15]  However, article 122 of the Code of the Person and the Family provides that the male is the head of the household, thereby codifying the unequal position of women in the family.[16]

Although the principle of gender equality and non-discrimination on the grounds of sex is enshrined in the 2005 Constitution, there is no law that specifically provides for equal inheritance rights. Inheritance is largely governed by customary laws that discriminate against women.[17]  In its 2001 report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women the Burundian Government reported that under customary law, rural women cannot inherit from her father or from her husband.[18]  Notably, the 2000 Arusha Agreement provided for reforms that would improve the status of women including inheritance rights.[19] However, in 2007, the Government reported that these reforms had been stalled due to other political priorities.[20]

In 2008, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women noted concerns about the particular treatment of widows due to the discriminatory customary inheritance practices.[21]  It is reported that widows cannot inherit land from her husband and often their brothers will not welcome them back into their family home, leaving widows landless and homeless.[22]

There are a number of other Burundian laws that discriminate against women in the institution of the family. For example, the Penal Code defines the crime of adultery in terms more favourable to men than to women. Further, the Nationality Code of Burundi does not grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children.[23]

While is it estimated that the prevalence of female-headed households range from 17 percent in near the borders of Burundi to 55 percent in the centre, there is no data available indicating attitudes towards these family structures.[24]

[7] United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (2008) p.3 [8] CEDAW (2008) p.3[9] CEDAW (2007) pp.11-12 [10] CEDAW (2007) p. 48 [11] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) [12] UNICEF (2009) [13] 1999 data from World Bank (n.d.); 2001 data from Economic Commission for Africa, African Union et al (2010)  p.40 [14] CEDAW (2007) p.48 [15] CEDAW (2001) p. 39 [16] CEDAW (2008) p.3 [17] CEDAW (2008) p.3 [18] CEDAW (2001) p.36 [19] CEDAW (2007) p.16 [20] CEDAW (2007) p.16 [21] CEDAW (2008) p.5 [22] Farha, L (2002) p.3 [23] OMCT (2004) p.9 [24] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (2005)

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

Rape is prohibited by law in Burundi and is punishable by up to 30 years’ imprisonment.  A reform to the Penal Code in 2009 criminalized spousal rape, however the penalty is only a fine of 10,000 to 50,000 francs (USD 8 to USD 40) and 8 days of imprisonment.  The reforms to the Penal Code also specifically criminalised domestic violence and sexual harassment.[25]

Women’s safety in Burundi has been significantly affected by the conflict. Violence against women was particularly severe during the armed conflict, and included rape, torture and enslavement of young girls and women. Since the ceasefire in 2002, it is reported that violence against women and children continues to increase.[26] Women continue to experience high levels of violence in the community, in the family, from rebels and from State actors.[27]

There are no population based studies of sexual violence, however reports from organisations working in the community provides a snapshot of the gravity and scale of the problem. From 2004 to November 2007, the Seruka centre of Medicin Sans Frontiers reports an average of 1,366 cases of sexual violence per year. In 2006, the United Nations Office in Burundi conducted a study to find that that 60% of reported rapes concerned children and 24 % of the rape victims were less than eleven years old.[28]  In 2009, according to the Association for the Defense of Women's Rights, 3,017 cases of rape and domestic violence were reported to their group during the year.[29]

Despite the problem of endemic sexual violence receiving widespread attention, there remains significant barriers to women seeking justice through the legal system. According to Amnesty International in 2007, only 10 to 15 percent of reported rape victims actually initiated legal proceedings.[30]  Successful prosecutions of rape are very rare.[31]  The World Organisation on Torture reports that sexual violence is generally trivialised in the community, the police and the judiciary. As such, perpetrators enjoy a culture of impunity for their actions. Further, the fear of stigmatisation and reprisal also prevents women from reporting sexual violence.[32]

A culture of shame around sexual violence and the need to preserve the ‘honour’ of women also poses barriers to women seeking justice after violence. It is reported that men have often abandoned their wives following acts of sexual violence. Further, there have been cases where the victims of sexual violence were forced by their families and local arbiters to marry the perpetrators.[33]

Domestic violence against women is also reported to be common and on the rise since the ceasefire, however, there is no prevalence data available.[34]  Although domestic violence is now a crime, incidents are rarely reported and where there are reports, incidents are not properly investigated.[35]  Sexual harassment is also reported to be common in the family and in the community.[36]

Female genital mutilation reportedly does not exist in Burundi, although information on the existence of specific legislation prohibiting the practice is limited.[37]

Women’s physical integrity in Burundi is also compromised by limited reproductive choices. In Burundi, abortion is only permitted to save the pregnant woman’s life, to preserve her physical health or to preserve her mental health. It is illegal in the event of pregnancy through rape or incest.[38]  Data from 2002 found that 20 percent of women in Burundi were using contraception.[39]

[25] US Department of State (2010) [26] United Nations General Assembly (2008a) p.6 [27] OMCT (2007) pp.3-4 [28] OMCT (2007) p. 3 [29] US Department of State (2010) [30] US Department of State (2009) [31] US Department of State (2009) [32] OMCT (2007) p.2 [33] US Department of State (2009) [34] US Department of State (2009); OMCT (2007) p. 4 [35] US Department of State (2009) [36] OMCT (2007) p.3 [37] Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d.) [38] United Nations Population Division (2007) [39] UNDP, ADB et al (2010) Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals, 2010 p.38

Son Bias: 

Gender disaggregated data on rates of infant mortality and early childhood nutrition are not available for Burundi.

However, preferential treatment of sons is evident in comparing female to male enrolment in primary school where female enrolment is at 71 percent of male enrolment.[40]  Inheritance practices that favour men and boys (see Family Code section) also indicate preferential treatment of sons.

The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 0.98.[41] 

There is no evidence to suggest that Burundi is a country of concern in relation to missing women.

[40] World Bank (2010) [41] Central Intelligence Agency (2012) 

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

Men and women in Burundi have the same legal position in matters related to the conclusion of contracts and the administration of property. However, customary law is discriminatory against women with respect to access to land. As noted in the Family Code section, customary laws provide that women cannot inherit land from their fathers or husbands.[42]

In regard to access to property other than land, the 1993 amendments of the Code of Person and Family provide for joint management of family property but with some limitations. Wives can act independently only in the absence of their husbands.[43]  Further, article 126 of the Code provides that a wife’s consent is not required for any decision regarding joint property.[44]

Women in Burundi no longer need to obtain their husband’s permission to open bank accounts, engage in business or obtain loans. The law in Burundi provides that any spouse, male or female, must provide permission for the other spouse to take out a loan.[45]  It is reported that the number of women acquiring loans for commercial activity or to purchase homes has increased in recent years. For example, in 2001, the Republic of Burundi reported that in 1995 women received only 1.4 per cent of loans from commercial banks.[46] In 2007, the Government reported that in 2005 women were receiving up to 35 percent of loans from some commercial banks.[47]  Micro-credit institutions in Burundi tend to target women for loans, with one provider providing 67 percent of its loans to women.[48]  Although women’s entrepreneurship has increased in recent years, it is reported that they make up only 16 percent of traders going abroad.[49]

[42] CEDAW (2007) p.11 [43] CEDAW (2001) p.8 [44] United Nations General Assembly (2008b) p.9 [45] CEDAW (2001) p.33 [46] CEDAW (2001) p.34 [47] CEDAW (2007) p.43 [48] Republic of Burundi (2009) p.16 [49] Republic of Burundi (2009) p.17 

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

The amendments of the Code of Person and Family granted women the right to freedom of movement. The law stipulates that married couples should collectively choose their place of residence: if they cannot agree, either spouse may request that the dispute be resolved in the family council or, if necessary, in court.[50]  However, the persistent and increasing threat of sexual violence and domestic violence against women, along with the threat of other forms of violence associated with conflict, pose a significant obstacle to women’s freedom of access to public space.[51]

The Constitution provides for press freedom and freedom of association. However, the US Department of State reports that these rights are routinely infringed by the Government.[52]  There is no specific data on the gendered impact of such restrictions.

With respect to political participation, the constitution reserves 30 percent of National Assembly, Senate, and ministerial positions for women.[53]  In the most recent elections in 2010, women were elected to 32 percent of positions in the National Assembly and 46 percent of positions in the Senate.[54]

The lack of paid maternity leave entitlements is a barrier to women’s participation in economic life in Burundi. Although the constitution recognises women’s equal right to work and right to equal pay, there is no legal right to maternity leave.[55]

[50] CEDAW (2001) p.37[51] United Nations Economic and Social Council (2006) p.7 [52] US Department of State (2009) [53] CEDAW (2007) p.21 [54] Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d.) [55] CEDAW (2007) p.34 

Background: 

The status of women in Burundi has been significantly affected by years of conflict and war. The assassination of Burundi’s President in 1993 triggered widespread conflict, killing more than 200,000 Burundians. In 2003, an agreement was brokered between the Hutu and Tutsi groups, leading to a new constitution being adopted by referendum in 2005.[1]  The World Bank classifies Burundi as a low income country.[2]

During the conflict and since the agreement, many women have suffered displacement, and have been victims of high levels of sexual violence, murder and slavery. Further, women have been the worst affected by poverty and scarce economic resources. Legal and systemic discrimination against women continues to impede progress towards gender equality.

Article 22 of the Constitution of Burundi establishes the equality of women and men before the law.[3]  Burundi ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in1992 without reservations.

The 2011 Human Development Index for Burundi is 0.316, which places the country 185th out of 187 countries with data.[4]  Burundi's Gender-related Development Index is 0.478, giving the country a rank of 89th out of 146 countries.[5]  The Wold Economic Forum ranked Burundi 24th out of 135 countries with a score of 0.7270 in The Global Gender Gap Report 2011.[6]

[1] Central Intelligence Agency (2010) [2] World Bank (n.d.) [3] Article 22, Constitution of Burundi (consolidated 2005) [4] United Nations Development Programme (2011) p.130 [5] United Nations Development Programme (2011) p.142 [6] World Economic Forum (2011) p.10 

Sources: 

ACAT Burundi and OMCT (2008) NGO Report on Violence Against Women in Burundi: prepared for the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, available at http://www.omct.org/pdf/VAW/2008/CEDAW40th_Rep_alt_Burundi_eng_summary.pdf, accessed 23 October 2010.

Central Intelligence Agency (2010) The World Factbook: Burundi, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/by.html, accessed 21 October 2010.

Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Factbook: Sex Ratio, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2018.html, accessed 29 February 2012.

Economic Commission for Africa, African Union et al (2010) Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals, available at http://www.undp.org/africa/documents/mdg/full-report.pdf, accessed 16 October 2010.

Farha, L (2000) Women’s rights to land, property and housing, Forced Migration Review, April 2000, available at http://www.fmreview.org/FMRpdfs/FMR07/fmr7.8.pdf, accessed 23 October 2010.

Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d.) Legislation and other national provisions: Bahrain, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, available at http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/fgm-prov-b.htm, accessed 23 October 2010. 

Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d.) Parline Database: Burundi, available at http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm, accessed 24 October 2010.

OMCT (World Organisation Against Torture) (2001) Violence against Women in Burundi : Report prepared for the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, available at http://www.omct.org/pdf/VAW/BurundiEng2001.pdf, accessed 23 October 2010.

Republic of Burundi and East African Community (2009) Gender and Community Development Analysis in Burundi, available at http://www.eac.int/gender/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=80&Itemid=106, accessed 24 October 2010.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (2005) Map of Female headed households distribution per site, May 2005, available at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4821c9230.html, accessed 24 October 2010.

UNICEF (2009) State of the World’s Children – online data, Available at http://www.unicef.org/sowc09/statistics/statistics.php, accessed 22 October 2010.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (2001) Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Burundi, Initial Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/BDI/1, CEDAW, New York, NY.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (2007) Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Burundi, Combined Second, Third and Fourth Periodic Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/BDI/4, CEDAW, New York, NY.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2008) Concluding comments of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Burundi, CEDAW/C/BDI/CO/4, CEDAW, New York, NY.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) World Marriage Data 2008, available at http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/WMD2008/Main.html, accessed 10 October 2010.

United Nations Development Programme (2009) Human Development Report 2009 Burundi, online edition, available at http://hdrstats.undp.org/en/countries/country_fact_sheets/cty_fs_BDI.html, accessed 20 October 2010.

United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2011_EN_Complete.pdf, accessed 29 February 2012.

United Nations Economic and Social Council (2006) Report of the independent expert on the human rights situation in Burundi, Akich Okola, E/CN.4/2006/109, New York, NY.

United Nations General Assembly (2008a) Human Rights Council, Working Group on Universal Periodic Review, Summary prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in accordance with paragraph 15 (c) of Resolution 5/1 of the Human Rights Council: Burundi, A/HRC/WG.6/3/BDI/3, Geneva.

United Nations General Assembly (2008b) Human Rights Council, Working Group on Universal Periodic Review, National Report Submitted in accordance with paragraph 15 (a) of the annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1: Burundi, A/HRC/WG.6/3/BDI/1, Geneva.

United Nations Population Division (2007) World Abortion Policies 2007, Available at http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/2007_Abortion_Policies_Chart/2007_WallChart.pdf, accessed 13 October 2010.

US Department of State (2010) 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Burundi, available at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010, accessed 5 March 2012.

World Bank (2010) Country Policy and Institutional Assessment – Burundi, online data, Available at http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTGENDER/EXTANATOOLS/EXTSTATINDDATA/EXTGENDERSTATS/0,,menuPK:3237391~pagePK:64168427~piPK:64168435~theSitePK:3237336,00.html, accessed 22 October 2010.

World Bank (n.d.) Summary Gender Profile: Burundi, available at http://siteresources.worldbank.org/EXTAFRREGTOPGENDER/Resources/burundi.pdf, accessed 22 October 2010.

World Bank (n.d.) Online data: Burundi, available at http://data.worldbank.org/country/burundi, accessed at 20 November 2010.

World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2011.pdf, accessed 2 March 2012.

Data
Discrim. Fam. Code Rank 2012: 
93
Discrim. Fam. Code Value 2012: 
0.5997
Legal Age of Marriage: 
1
Early Marriage: 
0.070528
Parental Authority: 
0.5
Inheritance: 
1
Data
Rest. Phys. Integrity Rank 2012: 
63
Rest. Phys. Integrity Value 2012: 
0.4105
Violence Against Women (laws): 
0.5
Female Genital Mutilation: 
0
Reproductive Integrity: 
0.29
Data
Son Bias Rank 2012: 
35
Son Bias Value 2012: 
0.456938
Missing Women: 
0
Fertility Preferences: 
0.480014
Data
Rest. Resources & Ent. Rank 2012: 
106
Rest. Resources & Ent. Value 2012: 
0.6633
Access To Land: 
1
Access To Property Other Than Land: 
1
Access To Bank Loans And Credit: 
0
Data
Rest. Civil Liberties Rank 2012: 
40
Rest. Civil Liberties Value 2012: 
0.4477
Access To Public Space: 
0.5
Political Participation: 
0.349315
Political Quotas: 
0.5