Everyday partner violence in Rwanda: The contribution of community-based sociotherapy to peaceful family life
Rwanda is well known for the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. What is less known is the increase in everyday partner violence that has come about as a legacy not only from the genocide but also from the war preceding the genocide. A range of war and genocide-related factors continue to contribute to family conflict and intimate partner violence in Rwanda to this day. This raises particular challenges for interventions aimed at curbing such incidences. This article presents arguments for community-based sociotherapy as a psychosocial approach that can effectively meet these challenges. The qualitative study that informed the article was situated in the north of Rwanda. Data collection methods included interviews, focus group discussions, participant observation and informal conversations. Data were coded and categorised in relation to the main research questions. Social disconnection and mistrust as legacies of the war and genocide proved to be major issues underlying family conflict and partner violence. Sociotherapy reportedly restores trust, dignity, respect and a caring attitude among its participants, thereby facilitating the creation of a home environment in which husband and wife start to openly address their problems, cease different forms of partner violence, raise their standard of living and become role models in their neighbourhood. Community-based sociotherapy as a grassroots intervention has proven to be an effective complement to more top-down public and political responses to gender-based violence.
Keywords: partner violence, family conflict, community-based sociotherapy, war, genocide, Rwanda.