Monday April 9 2018

Refugee camps in northern Uganda choke on sexual abuse cases

sexual abuse

Rape is punishable by death as provided for by section 125 of the Penal Code Act. 

By Agencies

On March 25, 2018, 15-year-old Nancy Draru (not real names), a Ugandan national went to Agojo Refugee settlement in Adjumani District together with her two sisters for a local dance party.
On her way back home, she was raped by 21-year-old Emmanuel Guya, a South Sudanese refugee.

"A group of men that I didn't know came out of nowhere when I and my sisters were walking back home. The group was made up of five men. Four of the men chased my sisters away as one of them remained and pushed me down and raped me," she said.
She explains that Guya pinned her firmly on the ground and held her mouth to prevent her from making an alarm as he raped her. She explains that after raping her, Guya left her to go home before he ran after her asking for more sex. Draru, who was running and shouting for help, was rescued by her brother who got into a fight with Guya together with his friends.

Guya was later arrested by police and charged with rape. Section 123 of the penal code defines rape as; "Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind or by fear of bodily harm, or by means of false representations as to the nature of the act, or in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, commits the felony termed rape."

Rape is punishable by death as provided for by section 125 of the Penal Code Act. Once convicted, Guya could suffer death.
Mr Yasin Mpoowa, the Officer in Charge of Criminal Investigations Department at Adjumani police station, says they record a case of sexual assault involving minors or adults every day. He says that most of the cases that are reported involve refugees and residents from the host communities.

"The cases that involve refugees and locals are the most reported. The ones concerning either just locals or refugees are rarely reported. We receive at least one defilement or rape case daily," he said.
It is estimated that over one million South Sudan refugees are living in various settlements in the country. Adjumani alone has a total of 110,000 refugees that are settled in 18 refugee settlements.

Mr Geoffrey Mangai, Draru's father said what happened to his daughter was very painful. Mangai said he is willing to follow up the case up to the last point.

"What happened to my daughter was painful because I was one of the many people in Adjumani that offered my land to the refugees in the area. It is very painful that this is the way that I and my family have been paid back," he said.

Mr Saleh Emmanuel, a community leader at Bidi bidi Refugee settlement in Yumbe District attributes the cases of sexual assault in the settlements to raging hormones among females and males.

He however, said most parents are reluctant to inform police or leaders about cases of sexual abuse.

"What we have learnt is that so many times, parents do not want to involve us in such cases. They settle them within families by forcing the two people involved to get married."

Mr Saleh said in other cases, the victim's family is compensated money by the perpetrator's family. He said, in cases that are reported, Non-Governmental Organizations play a big role in helping the victims and making sure that the perpetrators are brought to book.

One of the NGOs operating in refugee settlements in Adjumani is the Lutheran World Foundation (LWF).

Ms Elizabeth Kaboyo, Protection Coordinator LWF, says that sexual gender based violence is common in refugee settlements and hosting communities.
According to Ms Kaboyo, two out of every five cases of gender based violence that they deal with on a weekly basis involve sexual abuse.

"Two out of five cases that we deal with are cases of rape or defilement and we handle these cases as emergencies," she said.
Ms Kaboyo said the organization handled 329 cases of Sex Gender Based Violence last year. 37 cases involved male victims while the remaining victims were female. Out of the 829 SGBV cases reported; 19 were rape, 33 sexual abuse, 145 physical assault, six forced marriages, 42 economic violence and 64 cases of emotional abuse.

Charles Riuk, one of the local leaders in Mireiyi refugee settlement in Adjumani District, says t the cases of sexual abuse are high in refugee settlements especially among new entrants.

"With the unrest back home, there's no rule of law. So people do what they want. They have sex with whoever they want so they think the same applies here in the settlements," he said.
Data from the 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey shows that 1m women are exposed to sexual violence every year in Uganda.

However, only 13 percent of the women aged between 15 and 49 are estimated to report sexual violence cases to the authorities.