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Initial report submitted on 3 July 2000 (CEDAW/C/BDI/1)


(Sources: The World Factbook 2000 - Burundi, Atlapedia Online - Burundi):

Population, 2000 estimate: 6,054,714
Ethnicities: 82% Hutu, 14% Tutsi,
1% Twa (pygmoid group), 2% Asian and European
Religions: 67 % Christian, 23% local native tribal beliefs, 10% Muslim

GDP, 1999 estimate: US$ 4.2 billion
GDP per capita, 1999 estimate: US$ 730
GDP - real growth rate, 1999 estimate: 1%
Inflation rate, 1999 estimate: 26%
Economic Aid recipient, 1999 estimate: US$ 1.344 billionMajor industries: subsistence agriculture, coffee, cotton, tea, sweet potatoes, bananas, beef, milk, blankets, shoes, soap, assembly of imported components, pharmaceuticals, telecommunicationsPopulation Growth Rate, 2000 estimate: 3.15%
Fertility Rate, 2000 estimate: 6.25 children born/woman
Infant Mortality Rate, 2000 estimate: 71.5 deaths/1000 live births
Life expectancy at birth, 2000: Total - 46.18 years
Male - 45.23 years
Female - 47.16 yearsLiteracy, 1995 estimates: Total - 35.3%
Male - 49.3%
Female - 22.5%

Background and Recent Political Events
Burundi has a long history of ethnic conflict, becoming increasingly tense in the second half of the twentieth century.  On 1 July 1962, Burundians achieved full independence from Belgium.  Since then, numerous domestic conflicts have forced hundreds of thousands of Burundians to flee, many to Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo—all countries with their own histories of ethnic conflict and civil strife.
In 1991, the military ruler of Burundi, Pierre Buyoya, approved a constitution that provided for an elected president and parliament.  He had suspended the 1981 constitution in 1987.  The first Hutu president in Burundi was elected and assassinated in 1993.  A civil war ensued, resulting in the death of tens of thousands of Burundians and the displacement of hundreds of thousands.  The second Hutu president died in a plane crash along with the President of Rwanda.  The plane crash incited the Rwandan genocide, as well as an escalation of violence in Burundi.  While refugees fled Burundi, hundreds of thousands of refugees entered the country from Rwanda.
Buyoya declared himself president of Burundi in 1996 after a bloodless coup.  He disbanded the National Assembly, banned all government opposition and imposed a national curfew.  Many countries imposed economic sanctions on Burundi and restricted diplomatic relations until Buyoya liberalized political parties and some national policies.  Peace negotiations have been underway for several years, but have suffered numerous setbacks.  Fighting continues between the Tutsi-dominated army and Hutu rebel forces. Amnesty International reports over 200,000 Burundi deaths due to ethnic violence between 1993 and 1998. [i] Sources estimate that about 800,000 Burundians are either internally displaced or live as refugees in neighboring countries, mostly in Tanzania. [ii]
Nelson Mandela was appointed in 1999 by regional leaders to revive and facilitate peace talks.  To acknowledge perceived progress in the peace process, the European Union announced on 11 December 2000 that it would end its four-year long sanctions on development aid to Burundi next year.  In August, many women’s groups participated in the construction of the Arusha peace accords. 
Freedom of expression has suffered because of the political instability.  Agnes Nindorera, recipient of an International Women’s Media Foundation’s Courage in Journalist Award in October 2000, has had her home ransacked and her equipment confiscated, and has been told by a high government official that she would be shot in the head if she continued to report about government activities. [iii]



Burundian law prohibits discrimination. Article 15 of Decree-Law No. 1/088 of 6 June 1998 states: “All persons are equal in dignity and in rights and duties without distinction as to sex, origin, race, religion or beliefs. All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without distinction to equal protection by the law.” [iv] Despite this legal guarantee, women face systematic discrimination perpetuated by patriarchal Burundian traditions. 
According to Human Rights Watch, women are accorded inferior status to men in Burundi. Men are seen as the natural heads of their households and women are considered dependents of male relatives and husbands. Men generally make decisions regarding the allocation of the family’s resources, whether their children attend school, whether their wives may leave the home, and when sex with their wives will occur. [v] Women are required to do all household chores, including the collection of fuel wood, the provision of food and child care. 
One journalist reports, “Traditional Burundian society permits husbands to use physical punishment to discipline their wives when they are considered to have done wrong.” [vi] Burundian women are beaten, for example, when they do not have dinner ready on time. [vii] The difficulty in eliminating discrimination has been exacerbated by the civil unrest that has displaced hundreds of thousands of Burundian women and men both internally and to neighboring countries.  It is unknown how government officials intend to carry out this obligation, now that refugees are being repatriated at an increasing rate. [viii]  
There is no known law specifically prohibiting the trafficking of persons in Burundi, [ix] though laws outlining the punishments for prostitution and the facilitation of prostitution do exist. [x]   It is difficult to ascertain the status of trafficking in women, because of the massive flux of women both within Burundi and across its borders. Soldiers require inhabitants of internal displacement camps to cook, fetch water, and perform other chores without compensation. [xi]   Many women are among those required to work without pay, as they constitute about 80 percent of all displaced Burundians. [xii]
Women are underrepresented in Burundian government and politics. Of the 22 cabinet members, only one, the Minister of Women, Welfare, and Social Affairs, is a woman. [xiii] In 1998, the Parliamentary Assembly expanded to 117 seats. Women held 17 of these seats (14.5%). [xiv] One of nine members of the Supreme Court is a women. [xv] The number of women holding political posts peaked in 1993 at 5.03 percent and included a female Prime Minister from July 1993 to February 1994. During the period of unrest, this figure declined back to 3.4 percent. [xvi]
Women’s groups were, for many years, excluded from all government peace negotiations.  Marie Goretti Nduwayo, the National Program Officer of UNIFEM in Burundi, reports that women turned to international fora to help facilitate their inclusion: “With the help of Ms. Speciose Kazibwe, the Vice President of Uganda, and Ms. Perry, the ex-President of Liberia, they managed to organize a conference in Uganda, after which they met H.E. Museveni, the President of Uganda, who accepted to negotiate the participation of Burundian women in the Burundi peace negotiation in Arusha.” [xvii]  
The Final Declaration, drafted at the All-Party Burundi Women’s Peace Conference in July 2000 in Arusha, marked the end of the exclusion of women in the peacemaking process.  All 19 peace negotiation parties agreed to incorporate women’s concerns in the final peace accord.  The accord includes 23 of the recommendations made in the Final Declaration. [xviii] Recommendations made by the Women’s Peace conference include: a women’s charter in the new constitution, a 30% quota of women in the legislature, explicit statements in the peace accord on women’s property and inheritance rights, policies ensuring girls equal access to education at all levels, and that mechanisms to ensure these rights have sufficient budget. [xix]
A woman cannot transmit Burundian citizenship to a foreign husband or any children that she has with that husband. A child may only have the nationality of her or his mother if the father is unknown. A Burundian male who marries a foreign woman may transmit Burundian citizenship both to the woman and their children. [xx]



The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa stated in 1990 that women in Burundi need better educational opportunities and targeted the improvement of low literacy rates as the key to integrating women into the national development process. [xxi] Since then, the gap between men’s and women’s literacy rates has narrowed very little.  One source reports that around 20 percent of women and just under 50 percent of men in Burundi are literate. [xxii] Fifty-three percent of primary school-age girls are not in school.  The percentage of girls making up the student body decreases after primary school as well.  Girls constitute 45 percent of the primary schools, but only 39 percent of the secondary schools and 26 percent of institutions of higher education. [xxiii] Almost half of the girls expelled from secondary school have been expelled because of pregnancy. [xxiv]
The women who participated in the All-Party Burundi Women’s Peace Conference in July 2000 acknowledged education discrimination and proposed in their Final Declaration, “Education is the greatest leveler, and therefore we ask that all Burundian girls have equal access as boys to primary, secondary and higher education.” [xxv] Hutu  and Twa women face special obstacles in accessing education, as institutions of higher education are attended primarily by the Tutsi minority. [xxvi] Traditionally in rural areas, women are expected to perform hard farm labor, marry and have children at a young age.  All of these cultural expectations limit women’s educational opportunities. [xxvii]

Women are underrepresented in most economic sectors.  For example, there are 16 women per 100 men in administrative and managerial posts in Burundi. [xxviii] For every 100 men in professional and technical positions, there are 44 women. [xxix] The US State Department reports, “By law, women must receive the same pay as men for the same work, but in practice they do not.  Women are far less likely to hold mid-level or high-level positions.” [xxx]
Because women are responsible for work in the home, many women find it difficult to work outside of the home.  Collecting and preparing food for the family is time-consuming, and women’s participation in the market economy is often limited to unregulated agricultural activities.  Credit practices in Burundi discriminate against women. [xxxi]  
The UN Economic Commission for Africa calls for national and international support for women to participation in the private sector.  According to the Commission, “Women must also be encouraged and given the technological and financial means to create small and medium-sized commercial enterprises.” [xxxii] Among others, the EU has donated 150 million euros (134.4 million US$) [xxxiii] and the World Bank has offered 50 million US$ for reconstruction and development in Burundi. [xxxiv]   It is unknown whether the government plans to use some portion of the money to help end discrimination against women by enhancing their employment opportunities through microcredit or other loan programs that encourage women’s participation in the Burundian economy.
Burundi is growing annually at a rate of over three percent. Almost half of the population is under 15 years old.  A Burundian woman has an average of 6.25 children in her lifetime [xxxv] and has a one in twelve chance of dying from pregnancy-related causes. [xxxvi]   The official maternal mortality rate is 1,300 deaths per 100,000 live births [xxxvii] and the infant mortality rate is 105 per 1000 live births. [xxxviii] More than 80 percent of all births in Burundi take place in homes, where unsterile conditions and lack of skilled assistance are a problem. [xxxix]   Also, rural women work up to 17 hours a day when they are pregnant, often until their first contractions begin. [xl] The Burundian government has recognized the need for effective family planning, but it is unknown what has been done to combat the dangers that face women in childbearing.  
The UN National Population Program for Burundi calls for research that identifies the causes of and helps combat the following heath care problems that affect women in Burundi: low frequency visits to health care centers, malnutrition in children, low contraception use, and insufficient AIDS and family planning training programs. [xli]   It is unclear what progress has been made in these areas, especially with the fighting which has forced so many citizens from their homes.  It is also unclear what effect the recent malaria outbreaks, which have affected 276,000 people in the northern Burundian highlands since October 2000, have specifically on women. [xlii] Some clinics report a 500 percent increase in cases compared to a year ago. [xliii]
In 1999, the government led the forcible relocation of 333,000 ethnic Hutus to “regroupment sites” in Burundi with inadequate sanitation and insufficient access to water, food and medicine. [xliv] Women and children comprise between 80 and 90 percent of all displaced Burundians.  Women suffer disproportionately from the poor health conditions that accompany displacement.
AIDS infection in Burundi ranks 15th worldwide.  AIDS infection among women has risen drastically in the past few years, and in 2000, more Burundian women than men suffer from AIDS.  An estimated 185,000 women have AIDS. [xlv]   In urban areas, 16 percent of women 15 to 24 years old are HIV seropositive, as are 24 percent of women 25 to 34 years old. [xlvi]   Despite this alarming trend, the National AIDS Control Program (PNLS) reports that campaigns informing the population about the means of HIV contamination and prevention have had little effect on the sex habits of Burundians as few men use condoms. [xlvii]   Reported contraceptive use among couples of childbearing age is nine percent. [xlviii]
Widow’s inheritance rights are commonly restricted in Burundi. [xlix]   Because of the political instability, it is difficult to know whether other violations of women’s rights regarding their status before the law are gender specific.  Nonetheless, women face unfair trials in Burundi.  In one case, Marie Rose Umahoro was denied a lawyer for most of her trial and was denied the right to call witnesses to her defense, after being accused of participating in the massacre of members of the Tutsi group.  She was sentenced to death after the unfair trial and three weeks of torture and interrogation at a Karuzi police station.  Amnesty International Canada reports that Umahoro, who was seven months pregnant, was forced to kneel on broken glass. [l]
Hutu and Twa women face additional discrimination in legal matters. Ethnic Tutsis account for 95 percent of all Burundian judges and lawyers and most citizens assume that the judicial system is biased against them, promoting Tutsi interests. [li]
In Burundi, a husband traditionally makes the majority of family decisions, including those regarding the management of family finances and the education of their children.  Men do not share household responsibilities nor do they share equally in child rearing.  All of these inequalities have been exacerbated by the civil conflict.  Human Rights Watch reports that many Burundian men have begun to marry additional wives in displacement and refugee camps during the conflict, even though polygamy is illegal in Burundi.  Some men take their families’ food rations to give to their new wives, thus depriving their families of their basic needs. [lii] Others take their families’ belongings and flee with their new girlfriends or spouses. [liii]   Women do not have equal rights in such illegal marital dissolutions.



During the conflict, mass rapes have been reported in Burundi. [liv]
Domestic violence was already a problem in Burundi sans ethnic conflict.  The displacement of women and families during the unrest has worsened the state of violence against women.  Human Rights Watch monitored the situation of Burundian refugees in Tanzania from 1997 to 1999 and recently released a lengthy report detailing the violence inflicted on Burundian women.  This is particularly significant as the Burundian government repatriates women refugees or allows forcibly displaced women to return home. 
Human Rights Watch reports:
“Through firsthand research and from information obtained from humanitarian aid organizations working with the refugees, we found that a significant proportion of women had experienced repeated physical assaults by their husbands or intimate partners while living as refugees in the camps.  Victims had been assaulted with fists, bottles, shoes, sticks, and even machetes (pangas), and some had required hospitalization for their injuries.  Many women interviewed by Human Rights Watch bore visible scars, bruises, or had broken fingers, missing teeth, or cuts on their faces and bodies.  Some had suffered miscarriages or sexually transmitted diseases as a result of domestic sexual assault.” [lv]
Some Burundian women experience fear and guilt from the violence they suffer, sometimes even feeling responsible for the violence.  Others feel doubly victimized: first by the national conflict, and second by their husbands. Still others expressed a desire to return to Burundi despite the conflict so they could escape their husbands. [lvi]  
Male dominance has created a nearly inescapable cycle of violence for many displaced Burundian women. Men are given the food rations in many camps because they are considered the heads-of-household. Though women may, in some cases, seek ration cards, many are either unaware of the policy or afraid to do so, fearing that their husbands will beat them or that the current level of violence will escalate. Some husbands either sell their families’ food or give it to girlfriends or second families. Several women told HRW that they were beaten or threatened when they questioned this behavior. Many women remain with abusive husbands for fear of losing access to food rations for their families. [lvii]
Many women in refugee camps seek redress through local, camp-based organizations called abashingatahe, but often women receive no redress and are blamed for improper behavior that provokes violence.  Burundian women at home and refugees in Tanzania rarely complain to the police and, though over 200,000 cases of domestic violence have been reported in the camps of Tanzania, HRW estimates that these estimates dwarf the reality, because of underreporting. [lviii]  
Concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Burundi. 16 October 2000. CRC/C/15/Add. 133.
Main subjects of concern and recommendations:
·        The Committee is concerned that plans to adopt a single legal instrument gathering together all provisions relative to the rights and duties of children have not been completed, that not all elements of domestic legislation are in conformity with the provisions of the Convention and that customary law and traditional practices involving, inter-alia, inheritance violate the rights of children, and of girls in particular.
·        The Committee is concerned by the low minimum age of 12 at which formal education is no longer compulsory and joins with the State party in expressing concern at differences between the legal minimum age for the marriage of girls and boys and at the minimum age of recruitment to the armed forces.
·        The Committee recommends that the State party raise the age until which children are legally obliged to receive a formal education and consider linking the new age limit with the current minimum limit at which children are legally permitted to work, that of 16.  The Committee recommends,  that the State party pursue its efforts to harmonize the minimum age of marriage for girls and boys and that legislative measures be taken to raise the minimum age of recruitment to the armed forces to 18.
·        The Committee is deeply concerned at gross violations of the right to non-discrimination and at the impact of discrimination upon children and notes that discrimination takes different forms including, by ethnic origin, gender, geographical origin (within the country) and social status.   The Committee notes, in addition, that other forms of discrimination lead to concerns with regard to, inter-alia, access to resources, property inheritance, rights to nationality and the access of girls to education.
·        The Committee  expresses concern at acts of cruelty, ill-treatment, abuse including sexual abuse and neglect and practices such as the seizure of property belonging to orphans, committed against children in the context of the family, including the extended family recommends that the State party take steps to establish effective mechanisms for timely reporting and response to domestic violence and abuse against or affecting children, to prosecute individuals who violate criminal law and to protect children from cruelty and other acts, such as the seizure of property from orphaned children.
·        The Committee is deeply concerned by low immunization rate, high levels of malnutrition and micro-nutrition deficiencies and by extremely poor health conditions among children in general and particularly in camps and by high mortality rates among children, by high maternal mortality rates, by low investment in health care, the limited number of hospitals and health centers that are operational, the limited drug supply and relative cost of existing medicines including generic drugs and the concentration of medical professionals in Bujumbura city.
·        The Committee recommends that the State party pursue and increase its current efforts to promote awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS and seek assistance in this regard from UNAIDS; The Committee is concerned at the inadequacy of specialized psychological care in almost all regions of the State party and the substantial need for such assistance among children who have suffered from, inter-alia, the ongoing armed conflict, displacement, regroupment, sexual abuse and living conditions in camps.  The Committee recommends that the State party increase its efforts to make psychological assistance available to those children who have experienced trauma and to increase human resources in the area of psychological care by providing specialized mental health training for existing health professionals.
·        The Committee is further concerned by the limited access of children with disabilities to formal or vocational education opportunities and by the proportionally reduced number of girls attending primary or secondary education. The Committee recommends that  that every effort be made to ensure the equal access of girls and boys to education opportunities.
·        The Committee is concerned by the situation of children living and working on the streets and children living on their own and without proper housing in the countryside hills. The Committee is concerned, inter-alia, by the poor access of such children to health, education and other services, by reports that the numbers of children living or working on the streets is continuing to increase and by the particular vulnerability of girls in these situations.


Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Burundi. 18 September 1997. CERD/C/304/Add. 42.

No recommendations concerning women were issued by this Committee.
Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Burundi. 3 March 1994. CCPR/C/79/Add.41.
No recommendations concerning women were issued by this Committee.

[i] US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices-Burundi, 25 February, 2000, available at < www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1999_hrp_report/burundi.html>, accessed on 20 December 2000.
[ii] IRIN, Burundian Repatriation; US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Burundi.
[iii] “Women From Burundi, Kyrgyzstan And Britain Receive Journalism Awards,” available at <www.google.com/search?q=burundi+women&hl=en&lr=&safe=off&start=20&sa=N>, accessed on 7 December 2000.
[iv] United Nations, CEDAW, Initial Reports of States Parties: Burundi (CEDAW/C/BDI/1 ): 7.
[v] Human Rights Watch, available at < www.hrw.org/reports/2000/tanzania/Cuhweb-05.htm#P320_50378, accessed 13 December 2000.
[vi] Jim Lobe, “More Must Be Done to Protect Refugee Women from Rape, Abuse,” Inter Press Service, 26 September 2000, available at www.oneworld.net/ips2/sept00/00_21_003.html, accessed 19 December 2000.
[vii] Human Rights Watch.
[viii] “Tanzania: Burundian Repatriation To Be Agreed,” Refugees Daily, 7 December 2000, available at <www.unhcr.ch/refworld/cgi-bin/newscountry.pl?country=Burundi>, accessed 11 December 2000.
[ix]   US Department of State.
[x] United Nations, CEDAW, Initial Reports of States Parties: Burundi (CEDAW/C/BDI/1 ): 14.
[xi] US Department of State.
[xii] Ibid.
[xiii] Ibid.
[xiv] United Nations, CEDAW, Initial Reports of States Parties: Burundi (CEDAW/C/BDI/1 ): 14.
[xv] US Department of State.
[xvi] United Nations, CEDAW, Initial Reports of States Parties: Burundi (CEDAW/C/BDI/1 ): 14.
[xvii] Marie Goretti Nduwayo, “Women Peace-Building Actions In Burundi,” Women And Armed Conflict List Archive, available at www3.undp.org/ww/women-armdconf/msg00116.html, accessed 13 December 2000.
[xviii] “Burundi: Women’s Peace Role Lauded At Security Council,” Reliefweb, available at www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/cea/countrystories/burundi/20001026c.phtml, accessed 13 December 2000.
[xix] UN Security Council, “Final Declaration: All-Party Burundi Women’s Peace Conference,” Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, available at www.unifem.undp.org/unseccouncil/womendecl.html accessed 13 December 2000.
[xx] United Nations, CEDAW, Initial Reports of States Parties: Burundi (CEDAW/C/BDI/1 ): 14.
[xxi] United Nations Commission for Africa, “National Population Programme of 1990,” Troiseme Conference Africaine sur la Population, Rapport des Pays, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1994, available at cyber.law.harvard.edu/population/policies/BURUNDI.POP.htm, accessed 13 November 2000.
[xxii] Naomi Neft and Ann D. Levine, Where Women Stand: An International Report on the Status of Women in 140 Countries 1997-1998, New York: Random House, 1997, 31.
[xxiii] Ibid., 39-42.
[xxiv] United Nations, CEDAW, Initial Reports of States Parties: Burundi (CEDAW/C/BDI/1 ): 32.
[xxv] UN Security Council.
[xxvi] US Department of State.
[xxvii] Ibid.
[xxviii] Neft and Levine, 63.
[xxix] Ibid., 67.
[xxx] US Department of State.
[xxxi] Ibid.
[xxxii] United Nations Commission for Africa.
[xxxiii] “Burundi: EU resumes development aid,” Africa Newswire, 11 December 2000, available at: www.africanewswire.com/annews/categories/burundi/story3759.shtml,  accessed 13 December 2000.
[xxxiv] Ibid.
[xxxv] CIA, The World Factbook.
[xxxvi] Neft and Levine.
[xxxix] United Nations, CEDAW, Initial Reports of States Parties: Burundi (CEDAW/C/BDI/1 ): 29.
[xl] Ibid., 32.
[xli] United Nations Commission for Africa.
[xlii] IRIN. “WHO warns of increasing malaria danger,” IRIN Burundi Archive, 5 December 2000, available at www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/archive/burundi.phtml, accessed 13 December 2000.
[xliii] Ibid.
[xliv] US State Department.
[xlv] “AIDS Infection Ranks 15th Worldwide,”  Panafrican News Agency,  12 December 2000, available at allafrica.com/stories/200012130011.html, accessed 13 December 2000.
[xlvi] United Nations Commission for Africa.
[xlvii] “AIDS Infection Ranks 15th Worldwide.”
[xlviii] Neft and Levine, 115.
[xlix] Ibid., 97.
[l] Amnesty International Canada, “Burundi: The Search For Justice,” available at <www.amnesty.ca/women/Burundi.htm>, accessed 13 December 2000.
[li] US State Department.
[lii] Lobe.
[liii] Human Rights Watch, Chirumbidzo Mabuwa, “Seeking Protection: Addressing Sexual and Domestic Violence in Tanzania’s Refugee Camps,” available at: www.hrw.org/reports/2000/tanzania/Duhweb-03.htm#P184_8969, accessed 13 December 2000.
[liv] Neft and Levine, 158.
[lv] Mabuwa.
[lvi] Ibid.
[lvii] Ibid.
[lviii] Ibid.



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