Sunday March 16 2014

Lessons from gang-rape case

By Editorial

In October last year, the media broke the chilling story of a young woman who was gang-raped by five men. The victim, then 23 years old, was in a sorry state. Gang-raped and sodomised – not once but three times, she could hardly walk without support after suffering extensive injuries. The harrowing details of her ordeal shocked the public and exposed the cruelty we live with.
This woman survived because of her bravery and the support from well wishers. Having been lured under the guise of a job when her supposed employer reportedly organised his friends to gang-rape her, what she went through was distressful but she mustered the courage – amid threats from one of the suspects – to report the case to police.

Disturbing as it is, this is a story of hope for several victims of abuse who are suffering in silence. It is a story of perseverance and bravery given the twists in the case – from some suspects still on the run, allegations of bribery to frustrate investigations, to threats from her tormentors.
Five months later, she is in good health. The NGOs that took care of her announced at a media briefing last week that she is ready to start her own life.

This case reminds us of the viciousness of humanity as well as the boundless power of resilience. It teaches us key lessons about the casual handling of rape cases/victims in this country, yet sexual offences are on the rise, according to the 2012 Crime and Traffic Safety report. Rape cases increased to 530 in 2012 from 520 in 2011. This calls for a more comprehensive approach to handling cases of rape.

The solution should not end at punishing offenders. The caretakers of the gang-rape victim did a noble thing to train her for a business venture and facilitate her to begin a self-help project. This is what the government ought to be doing by putting in place easily accessible centres that offer counselling and related welfare services for victims of rape.

As civil society organisations occasionally step in to support desperate victims, the government should not negate its responsibility of protecting Ugandans and providing comprehensive post-rape care.