Enact tougher laws on sexual violence
Posted Friday, October 18 2013 at 01:00
I have read with concern the story of Zainabu Mbabazi who was gang raped by the so-called investors who had promised her a good job. I want to first appreciate the work done by the Kampala Metropolitan chief Andrew Felix Kaweesi who ordered for fresh investigations into this case and also ActionAid Uganda, which has offered the woman a temporary shelter.
However, as we try to help this lady get the required health care and justice, we also need to address the root cause of this problem if we are to get long term solutions. Sexual violence in Uganda has gone on for far too long because of the societal attitude and perception that women’s bodies are objects for sexual gratification. It is because sexual violence is largely tolerated in society that victims fear to report such cases for fear of victimisation and some men take it upon themselves to use the powers they have to exploit vulnerable women. It is time we all rose up and condemned sexual violence as it has no place in modern society.
Even where laws exist, once the vice is tolerated, it will still thrive in our society and it is not taken with the seriousness it deserves even by the law enforcement agencies. There have been occassions where victims report cases of violence to police and they are told to go and settle them from home since the cases are considered as ‘private matters’. Women are entitled to protection both in the private and public sphere. In the recent past, there have been increasing cases of sexual violence from young Nisha Nambi who was raped and strangled to death in Kawempe, to the Masaka girl who, out of frustration, killed her own father in a desperate move to stop him from raping her.
There have also been increasing cases of young girls who are defiled in schools by their teachers and the only punishment they give the teachers is transferring them to other schools in which case they get a chance to defile other girls. Sometimes these cases are never reported in the media for fear of being stigmatised and even where they are reported, there is laxity in handling them.
The process by government to amend the Penal Code to address emerging new forms of sexual violence needs to be fast-tracked in order to offer relief to the victims. Time for lamentation is over and there is need for action.
Once these laws are put in place, there will be need to closely monitor their implementation because having laws alone is not sufficient to address a problem, it must be followed with sensitisation of communities about the existing laws and ensuring that perpetrators get the punishment they deserve.