About a year ago, the Uganda Radio Network did a heartrending story about a teenager who had been raped twice in a space of four years, impregnated and infected with HIV. She was about 14 when it first happened. She had lost hope.
“I wait for a time when I will die. After all, even my child has died,” she said.
After she was raped the second time, the rapist was identified; her parents held a meeting with his family. The two families agreed to settle matters amicably. Soon after she tested positive for pregnancy.
The parents asked her whether the pregnancy was as a result of the second rape or it was someone else.
She told them she had not engaged in any sexual activity except when she was raped. They took her to the rapist’s home to be his wife.
We retell this story to highlight how casually communities, including parents, treat rape.
This story replicates what happens to rape victims in most societies. Victims are shamed into silence and made to feel responsible for a crime committed against them.
Right from family level, communities, religious institutions, work places, police, the justice system, and governments, we have collectively failed rape victims. It is the reason victims have taken to social media to tell their stories. However, even in the social media space, attempts to silence and shame victims are blatant.
Records show that most rape cases are dismissed by court for lack of substantive evidence. Due to the stigma associated with rape, many victims are reluctant to speak out. But we must ask critical questions about rape and address how to deal with it.
When young women take to social media to tell their stories and name the people who raped them, silencing them with snide comments will not take the problem away. As a society, we can all be affected by rape in one way or the other as a victim or a relative to a victim. This is why we should give this issue the seriousness it deserves and have a sensible national conversation about it.
The latest annual crimes report indicates that 1,528 cases of rape were reported to Police in 2019. Taking into account the fact that many rape victims suffer in silence, the actual statistics are likely much higher than this, yet these reported cases are still too high.
It is difficult for victims to seek justice where families opt for compensation from the suspects. The victim has no say! We all have a moral obligation to protect victims, particularly children, from rapists.
We must fight this widespread culture of rape. It is a brutal ordeal that dehumanises and traumatises the victim. No one deserves to live such experiences.
Change starts with all of us!