The government of Uganda has been called upon to put in place more mechanisms to ensure women who are sexually abused and those facing domestic violence get justice.
The call was made by international human rights organization Amnesty International at the launch of their new report I Can’t Afford Justice – Violence against women in Uganda Continues Unchecked and Unpunished.
The report shows that many women who are raped or secually abused and those facing rampant domestic violence fail to seek justice because of the many economic and social obstacles, including the high costs of criminal investigations and discrimination by government officials.
The report says many victims of sexual abuse are required to pay for the cost of police transportation to arrest the accused, forensic examination fees and other expenses related to the investigation.
It also notes that government officials and society tend to forego justice for women sexually abused in the “interest of preserving the family unit”.
“The failure of the government to protect and support victims of sexual violence undermines the quest for justice,” said Widney Brown, a senior director of Amnesty International.
He says that lack of resources for law enforcement agencies especially the police mean that perpetrators rarely face justice. “Women in Uganda have been left with no faith in the justice system,” Brown said.
According to the report released on Wednesday in Kampala, two thirds of women who have experienced domestic violence say it was perpetrated by an intimate partner, while one in four women report that their first sexual experience was forced.
The report documents several personal accounts highlighting how the police, prosecution service and the courts are underfunded and understaffed. These in turn become obstacles to women accessing justice as the criminal justice system lacks the resources to provide these services to victims.
To wit, there is no state-run shelter for victims of gender-based violence. Amnesty International says abused women are also turned away from charity-run shelters due to lack of space and legal aid institutions are overwhelmed with cases of gender-based violence. “Many women endure violent situations simply because they have nowhere else to go,” the report notes.
But even when the police finally take a report seriously, there are few systems in place to protect the victims. Counsellors at a women’s shelter told Amnesty International about a 13-year-old victim who reported years of sexual violence by her father. She has come forward to report the rapes but now faces intimidation from her relatives and fears for her safety. Her case worker believes she is not safe where she is right now.
Other women said they cannot report any sexual violence dfue to bad attitude of police officers and the humiliating lines of questioning about their private lives and prior sexual conduct that they are often subjected to in the guise of the police getting evidence.
“The Ugandan government needs to take a hard look at its laws, policies and practices and close the vast chasm between its rhetoric of respect for women’s rights and its abject failure to protect and fulfil those same rights,” said Widney Brown.
The Amnesty report adds pressure to calls by women rights activities in Uganda who have long called for more measures to protect women from sexual and domestic violence and to ensure those who fall victim receive justice.
The Parliament of Uganda recently passed the Sexual Offenses Bill which is expected once signed into law and well implemented to ensure better justice for women facing sexual and domestic violence.
By Ultimate Media
The Amnesty International report titled I Can’t Afford Justice – Violence against women in Uganda Continues Unchecked and Unpunished
A detailed article on concerns of women on gender based violence and how it is impacting on the lives of women in Uganda
Part of a report showing that early marriage is a form of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) with detrimental physical, social and economic effects and why policymakers need to focus on the complex interactions between education, early marriage and sexual violence.
A report by IRIN on how victims of sexual violence in war ravaged northern Uganda have not got justice as peace return
A report by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health on the high levels of domestic violence in Uganda and why the vice persists.
An opinion piece by Alyssa Boulares is the Oxfam country director in Uganda on why both men and women should effectively fight domestic violence
An article focused on a report by Human Rights Watch in Uganda that found a big link between domestic violence and HIV/AIDS
an article by on the high incidences of domestic violence in Uganda why and how the government should put in place an appropriate law.
Excerpts from the Amnesty International report
“I got married when I was very young (15 years), it was 2002 and my boyfriend promised to buy me ahouse and land in the richest part of Kampala. After a few years he lost his job and he starteddrinking heavily. We moved to the slums. That is when the beatings began. At first all he did was beatme, and then he began to have sex with me by force as well. When I told him to wear a condombecause I suspected he had been sleeping with other women, he would beat me some more. One dayI waited in bed with a panga to defend myself, I swore I was going to cut off his ‘manhood’. When hecame to bed he saw it, we struggled and he overpowered me – that was the worst night of my life.Nowadays I don’t fight him anymore. He comes back drunk and he still wants to have sex with me byforce. When I refuse he says that I am having extramarital affairs. Sometimes I am weak and sicklybecause of too much work but he doesn’t care. Because of the rapes, I have been in pain for oneyear but I have not gone to the doctor because I cannot afford it. The little money that I have I keepit for food. I know that even if I go to the Local Council, they won’t do anything, the same thinghappens to my friends and nothing is done when they report it.”Phoebe
“The police want money for everything. They want
money to make photocopies of the Police form 3,
money to fuel the car to go and arrest the
suspect, money for their mobile phone airtime,
payment to the police doctor for the medical
report and sodas. What is the point; I might as
well keep the little money I have for my money for
medicine and food.”