Major Causes of Delinquency

Most of the delinquent behaviours are never deliberately committed by sober minded individuals of the Rwandan society; rather, there are historical and environmental factors behind the said incidences. This section outlines some key factors blamed for the increased incidences of delinquent behaviors among Rwandans especially children and the youth as highlighted below;

Drug and substance abuse: It may not be claimed that substance abuse causes delinquent behavior or delinquency causes alcohol and other drug use. However, the two behaviors are strongly correlated. Young people who persistently use and abuse substances often undergo and an array of legal, social, health and personality related problems that may culminate into delinquency. Excessive use of alcohol and other drugs distorts one’s mental capacity to restrain themselves from acts considered illegal and or against the socially approved norms. In fact, recent study findings linking Drug abuse to recent criminal activity including; theft, drunk driving, rape, involvement in fights, among others in Rwanda (WHO, 2014).

Poverty: Although the direct relationship between economic welfare and delinquency is still unproven, statistics indicate that there are high rates of delinquency attributed to poverty and poor welfare. Children who engage in the most serious forms of delinquency for example are more likely to be members of poor families and those without parents, especially the orphans or those driven out of their homes by unbearable violence. Poverty limits the capacity of households to provide for daily needs of its members and as a result, members especially the youth may resort to accessing basic necessities through means considered deviant from the law and social norms such as sex for pay and theft. An assessment conducted on the causes of female delinquency indicates that need for income to feed the family, pay school fees, buy clothes, feed children and pay household rent were the driving factors behind female involvement in activities considered criminal and anti-social such as prostitution (MYICT, 2013). Of the total interviewees, 72 percent of the sex workers interviewed were supporting children financially, whereas 80 percent of them were orphans, affirming the fact that the primary push for sex work was income generation.

Unemployment: The EDPRS II thematic area on Productivity and youth employment suggests that 200,000 jobs would be generated per annum to reduce unemployment. However, according to EICV 4, only 146,000 jobs were on average availed per year indicating a gap of 54000 jobs. Unemployment rate among the active youth (16-30) is at 3.3 percent at national level and reaches 12 percent in urban areas. (NISR, EICV 4, 2015/2016). Employment is the main source of income to support improved livelihood for everybody, whether employed by others or self -employed. As a result, the persistently unemployed youth tend resort to alternative and deviant means of survival such as sex trade, unofficial relationships (sugar mummies/daddies), theft and burglary among others to make ends meet. Either way, those that can’t afford the above ridiculous activities might be pressured to resort to alcohol and drug abuse in search of tranquility of the mind to forget their socio-economic burdens.

Lack of opportunities for productive work is driving many young people to migrate to urban areas. Most of them who end up without jobs resort to living on the streets and may turn to petty crime to make a living. Such people are more vulnerable to engaging delinquency behaviours such as substance abuse, non-licensed street vending, and sex worker. Migration also may lead to cross border crimes such as drug trafficking, committed by the youth, who migrated from delinquency stricken communities.

Low levels of education: The relationship between illiteracy and delinquency has not been scientifically proven but is one of the issues talked about in recent times. Inadequate education and skills breed unemployment, idleness and temptation to indulge in delinquency especially out of frustration and peer pressure. As the saying goes that “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”, the un/underemployed youth are at the greatest risk of participating in conducts classified as delinquency. The study conducted by the Ministry of Youth and ICT(MYICT) on male youth delinquency revealed a direct correlation between delinquency and level of education where in total about 80 per cent of those enrolled for rehabilitation had no education and 14.9% were primary school dropouts.

Dysfunctional families: A family is often perceived as the basic source of material and moral support to its members, old and young, weak and strong, most especially protecting and nurturing its young and more vulnerable members (UNCDP, 1995). The breakdown of the structure and the functioning of the family is by far the leading cause of delinquent behaviours especially among the children and even youth, in line with the “Theory of social disorganization”, that attribute delinquency to the absence or breakdown of communal institutions, such as the family (McKay, 1942). According to this theory, the personality of the child is affected by poor or defective relationship with and between parents and being subject to frequent humiliations. The lack of emotional involvement of parents into a child’s early life, the failure to set limits to the degree of deviance tolerable among the children and use of authoritarian type of child rearing among others could also give rise to delinquency among the youth.

Violence: Any individual subjected to verbal, physical, sexual and psychological violence is likely to develop physical and psychological trauma as a result. Various studies have shown a clear relationship between youth victimization and a variety of problems later in their lives, including mental health problems, substance abuse, impaired social relationships, suicide and delinquency . Globally, Each year an estimated 200,000 young people aged 10–29 years are murdered, millions more sustain violence-related injuries, and countless others go on to develop mental health problems and adopt high-risk behaviours such as smoking attributed to the suffered violence (WHO, 2015). In Rwanda, the report on female delinquency revealed that 73 percent of informants had experienced physical or sexual violence prior to indulging in delinquency and 63 percent had experienced physical violence in their childhood household.

Peer influence: It is widely accepted that one’s peer group is a powerful and influencing force during adolescence, as a point of reference through which they gain an understanding of the world outside their families. The influence of peer groups however may be detrimental to one’s line of choices including joining undertaking illegal and anti-social behaviors like pre-marital sex, petty theft, alcohol and drug abuse, idleness and disorderly, among others. This is because; the peer group is an adolescent’s main source of social interaction (Thomas F. Tate, 2006). According to the WHO report on preventing youth violence, the lack of social ties and involvement with antisocial peers are both strongly associated with youth violence.