Degree Name

Master of Research


School of Humanities and Social Inquiry


In the wake of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, former rebel leader turned President Paul Kagame set about restructuring the shattered state on a foundation of gender equality policies, arguing gender mainstreaming was crucial to national reconstruction. These policies have been acclaimed internationally and domestically. The existence of impressive gender equality legislation is extremely good politics for a state dependent on foreign aid, and Kagame’s has skillfully leveraged international genocide guilt following the global abandonment of any responsibility to intervene and stop the killing. The political strategy of gender mainstreaming has delivered Kagame and his government an international reputation as a progressive gender equal society. Gender quotas have cemented Rwanda’s place as world leader in the number and proportion of female parliamentarians, and this achievement is backed by an array of pro-women legislation. There is however a disjuncture between the myth of Rwanda as a gender equal society, and the reality.

Using primarily secondary sources, this thesis argues that Rwanda’s internationally lauded gender quotas and legislation have not delivered fundamental rights for Rwandan women and girls in terms of freedom from gender-based violence, access to abortion and sexual and reproductive health. In fact, the Rwandan government and judiciary have actively suppressed women’s sexual health rights. The denial of these fundamental freedoms constitutes an abuse of human rights. The thesis explores the underlying political, cultural, and religious reasons for this ongoing suppression. In its explanation of gender-based violence, abortion, and sexual and reproductive health, this thesis explores the reality of the supposed Rwandan gender equality for Rwandan women and girls, arguing that gender equality as articulated by the Kagame government is a myth.

FoR codes (2008)

160699 Political Science not elsewhere classified



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.