Population Size:

11,947, 373.[1]

Number of People Experiencing Domestic Abuse Each Year:

Reporting in Burundi is low.[2]

23% of women and 6% of men reporting having experienced sexual violence.

48.5% of women reported having experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime [3], while 27.9% reported experiencing such in the last 12 months.[4]

No research on male victims or other gender identities.

Cost of Domestic Abuse to the Economy Each Year:

No research.

Estimated % Change due to COVID-19:

COVID-19 is deepening the level of violence against women.[5]

Current Law and Policy:

Burundi is one of the world’s poorest nations and is struggling to emerge from a 12-year ethnic-based civil war. Since 2015, Burundi has been in the midst of a humanitarian and political crisis, with the security services and members of the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party, carrying out widespread human rights abuses. This crisis has heightened the risk of domestic and sexual violence for women in the country with violence against women and girls being accepted as part of everyday life. This is exemplified by the fact that 23% of women reported having experienced sexual violence, while 50% reported having experienced domestic violence. Only a small percentage of these incidents are actually reported, so the actual incidence is likely to be much higher. 

In 2017, specific legislation on the issue was introduced. However, there is little information available on its implementation and effectiveness and there are no further plans for reform. 

In 2013, CEDAW acknowledged that Burundi had taken various practical measures to eliminate domestic abuse. A bill had been drafted on the prevention of, protection from and punishment of gender-based violence, which was in the process of being adopted, and a pilot centre had been established to provide comprehensive support to victims. Burundi had also taken steps towards ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which it has since ratified. A national children’s forum and a women’s forum were in the process of being established and “focal point” judges were appointed in civil courts to monitor cases of gender-based violence. Despite this progress, Burundi was criticised by CEDAW for its lack of a specific law on violence against women.

On 22nd September 2016, Burundi introduced Law N°1/013 on the Prevention and Punishment of Gender-Based Violence.[6] However, despite this Law being introduced, women in Burundi still lack confidence in the judicial system and police services. This is because the police often try to reconcile women with their abusers and remind them of the social consequences of filing a complaint. Rape and sexual assault victims typically do not report crimes at all. Many fear retaliation from the perpetrator and/or negative reactions from their families but, in addition, most simply do not know where to go for help. Rural communities lack any real victim support services and many women are unaware of their rights. 

Burundi has a particularly serious problem with sexual violence. The political crisis that began in 2015 remains unchanged and women and girls are at heightened risks of sexual violence, which is often used as an intimidation tool. In its latest report, the Burundi Commission Inquiry highlighted the political context in which sexual violence has been committed in recent years. During the reporting period, Marie Claire Niyongere, a prominent opposition politician, was sexually assaulted and killed. Most cases of sexual violence were attributed to members of the security forces, intelligence forces and the Imbonerakure.

The government in Burundi claims to have established four centres to provide assistance to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

There are major obstacles to human rights monitoring in Burundi. Independent local NGOs and media outlets not affiliated with the government have been closed. The government also requested the closure of the OHCHR country office, which took effect in February 2019. Therefore, there is limited information on any recent progress in addressing domestic violence, although there do not seem to be any plans to introduce further legislation tackling the problem. There was very little information about the 2016 Law and the last observations from CEDAW date from 2008.

Frontline Services:



[1] Worldometer, “Burundi Population (Live)”, (worldometers.info).

[2] UNICEF, “Abuse, Impunity and Sexual Violence in Burundi”, (unicef.org, 14 June 2018).

[3] UN Women, “Global Database on Violence Against Women – Burundi”, (evaw-global-database.unwomen.org).

[4] ibid.

[5] European Network for Central Africa, “The COVID-19 Response Should Leave No One Behind: The Pandemic’s Implications in the Great Lakes Region”, (2020), Policy Report.

[6] Burundi, Loi No1.013 du 22 septembre 2016 portantPrévention, Protection des Victimes et Répression des Violencesbasées sur le Genre.

Further Reading

[1] UN Nations General Assembly, “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review – Burundi”, (2013), Report of the Twenty-Third Session of the Human Rights Council, A/HRC/23/9, Agenda Item 6.

[2] UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, “Burundi”, (un.org).

[3] Refworld, “Burundi: Protection and Resources for Women Victims of Spousal Abuse (2010 – June 2013”, (refworld.org, 3 June 2013).

[4] HRW, “Burundi – Events of 2018”, (hrw.org).