Recent findings that leaders have limited knowledge of the domestic violence law raises great concern as far as implementation of the law and fighting domestic violence is concerned.
A meeting organised for Nakasongola District leaders by the Uganda Parliamentary Association, the findings of which this newspaper published last week, found that the Domestic Violence Act (DVA), 2010, passed four years ago, has made no impact on reducing cases of domestic violence because the leaders who are supposed to enforce the law are ignorant about it, thus not applying any of its provisions.
The limited awareness about this important law is a setback to efforts aimed at ending violence in homes. On June 18, 2013, a group of female judges in Uganda expressed concern over the increase in gender-based domestic violence and abuse in the country.
The president of the National Association of Women Judges-Uganda, Ms Stella Arach Amoko, attributed this in part to the fact that the Domestic Violence Act is not widely known among legal professionals, law enforcement officials and victims. She noted that some judges and magistrates do not even have copies of the Act.
With most leaders, including law enforcers and magistrates, being ignorant about a law enacted to bring perpetrators of a widespread vice to justice, it is crucial that all Ugandans are educated about this law. Statistics from Uganda police reinforce this.
In 2012, police registered 9,278 victims of domestic violence. In the first quarter of 2013, there were 2,500 victims and 72 deaths were reported.
Other surveys on violence in homes are equally telling. A 2007 study by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics notes that about to 70 per cent of “ever-married women aged 15 to 49 had experienced some form of violence” at the hands of their partners.
The same report observes that 60 per cent of women aged 15 and above experienced physical violence, 15 per cent of women face violence during pregnancy, and 24 per cent report that their first sexual encounter was a forced one.
The fact that leaders are ignorant about the law feeds into the general apathy by many members of the Ugandan society who consider gender-based violence as a family affair where outsiders such as neighbours are not supposed to intervene.
Ignorance about the law and figures on domestic violence send a clear message: Government must prioritise the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act, 2010 by carrying out awareness campaigns countrywide and strengthening the capacity of leaders to handle family conflicts.