Legal Framework

Globally, the UN General Assembly resolutions No45/112 of 14 December 1990 for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (The Riyadh Guidelines) call for development of progressive delinquency prevention policies and measures against delinquency. The UN however cautions against criminalizing and penalizing a child for behavior that does not cause serious damage to their own development or harm to others. The guidelines appreciate the fact that youthful behavior that does not conform to overall social norms and values is often part of the maturation and growth process and tends to disappear spontaneously in most individuals with the transition to adulthood .

There is no consolidated set of laws against delinquency in Rwanda, simply because there is no single crime or behavior called delinquency. Delinquency is just “any conduct that does not conform to the legal requirements or moral standards of the Rwandan society” (See list of delinquent behaviours). Currently, most of the delinquent behaviors are managed with reference to law No. 01/2012/OL of 02/05/2012 instituting the penal code save for a few non-criminal anti-social behaviours treated with reference to existing orders and regulations such as the city of Kigali instructions N°44 of 02/11/2015, instituting and regulating the mandate and the functioning of Kigali rehabilitation and transit center. This section outlines a set of actions/behaviours that are treated as delinquency along with references to the laws and regulations applicable in the fight against the same problems;

As said above, most of the behaviours/conduct classified as delinquency are punishable in accordance with the Penal code, save for a few that are treated in line with the provisions of other ministerial orders and instructions as well as district council resolutions. Below is a summary of existing laws, orders and regulations as well as the forms and definitions of conducts of delinquency and penalties accruing to such conducts in the context of Rwanda;

The Organic law instituting the Penal Code: This law sets out offences and provide for penalties applicable to offenders, co-offenders and accomplices to the offences in question. The following conducts of delinquency are punishable in line with the penal code summarized below;

a)Drug/substance abuse. Drug or substance abuse is a disorder that is characterized by a destructive pattern of using a substance that leads to significant problems or distress . Article 593 of the penal code states that; growing, selling, transformation, transportation, storage and consumption of narcotic drugs are prohibited, except in cases and conditions specified by law. The law refers to an Order of the Minister in charge of health that approved and gazetted in 2014 that specifies substances classified as narcotic drugs. Article 594 highlights the penalties for a person who unlawfully uses narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances while Article 595 indicates penalties for facilitating another person to use narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

b)Prostitution: Prostitution means involvement by either a man or a woman in sex work as an occupation in exchange for consideration (art. 204). Article 205 (para 2) of this law sets stringent conditions imposed to any one engaging in prostitution while paragraph 4 of the same article reminds that both the sex workers and their clients are liable to the same punishments according to this law. Articles 206 through 215 all elaborate the penalties accruing to acts of prostitution and its related offences.
c)Vagrancy/homelessness: Vagrancy means behavior of a person who has no fixed abode and has no regular occupation or profession, in the way that it impairs public order (section 5, Art. 687). Any person who commits vagrancy shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of two (2) months but less than six (6) months and a fine of ten thousand (10,000) to one hundred thousand (100,000) Rwandan francs, or one of these penalties (Art 688).
d) Begging: Begging means behaviour of a person who is a habitual beggar (Art, 689). Any person who commits begging shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of eight (8) days but less than six (6) months (art, 690). Any beggar who: uses threats; enters a residence or its compound without the consent of the owner; pretends to be ill or disabled; adopts a behaviour that reduces him/her to a pitiful state; shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of six (6) months to one (1) year. The article stresses that even a group of beggars shall be liable to the penalty under Paragraph 2 of this Article. Articles 691 and 692 prescribes penalties for Using, encouraging, taking and inciting a child to beg as well as violence committed by a vagrant or a beggar respectively.

e)Drunkenness in the public (art, 599): Any person found in a state of drunkenness on the road, playground, public ways, drinking places, sports places or any public places shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of eight (8) days to two (2) months and a fine of twenty thousand (20,000) to one hundred thousand (100,000) Rwandan francs or one of these penalties. The penal code affirms that if the owner of any drinking place and his/her employees allow on their premises obviously drunk persons and give them more alcoholic drinks, they shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of eight (8) days to two (2) months and a fine of fifty thousand (50,000) to two hundred thousand (200,000) Rwandan francs or one of these penalties.

f)Theft (Art, 292): Generally the law defines theft as any fraudulent withdrawal or use of something belonging to another person. This may take several forms including; climbing (Art, 293), use of fake, lost or stolen keys (Art, 294), all considered illegal and punishable in accordance with the law. Theft can be carried out with or without violence. The law (Art, 300, penal code) states that any person who commits theft without violence or threat shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of six (6) months to two (2) years and a fine of two (2) to five (5) times the value of the stolen property or one of these penalties.

g)Street vending: Street vending is not punishable under the existing business laws or the penal code. Street vending is prohibited under the recently the city of Kigali instructions on the establishment and functioning of the Kigali city rehabilitation and transit centre adopted in November 2015.