Despite the end of the decade-long civil war in Burundi in 2003, where rape was widely reported as a weapon of war by government and rebel forces, sexual violence continues at an alarming rate. Both in the home and the larger society, police and judicial authorities have done little to respond to victims or find and punish those responsible. Because rape is not taken seriously by the authorities and victims themselves are shunned by relatives and their communities, women rarely report the crime. Those victims who come forward usually seek medical treatment and counseling at international health centers, rather than going to police.
In the absence of government figures, statistics obtained by Burundian and international NGOs show both reported and unreported rape occurring at high levels. The numbers, though, represent only the tip of the iceberg, said the report No Protection from Rape.
Systemic failures in the justice system have created a climate where rape victims are less willing or able to pursue criminal proceedings. The system particularly fails women in rural areas, who are often unaware of how to instigate legal proceedings and are frequently cut off from psychosocial and medical assistance provided by some non-governmental organizations operating in Burundi. Women are often stigmatized by their communities if they make public the attack they endured–often leading them to keep their suffering a secret and cope with the consequences of the violations alone.