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Remove hurdles in war against gender violence

Friday February 14 2020

 

By Editor

On February 8, the Daily Monitor reported that police in Sironko District, eastern Uganda, were looking for a 26-year-old man accused of hacking his father following a domestic brawl with his wife.
The Elgon region police spokesperson, Mr Robert Tukei, said Amuza Magombe, 65, a businessman and resident of Lukokolo village in Sironko District, was cut to death by his son when he tried to stop him from assaulting his wife.

There is fear that violence against women is on the rise in Uganda despite the presence of laws and policies prohibiting the act. According to the Demographic Health Survey (DHS) 2016, at least 56 per cent of married women in Uganda have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence by their current or most recent partner.

Based on this survey report, the country remains at the crossroad as to what still needs to be done to bring to an end gender-based violence (GBV) in Uganda.
In March last year, Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) lead researcher, Dr Madina Goloba, attributed physical violence against women, especially in the rural areas, to limited economic opportunities, which leads to redundancy and alcoholism.
Online harassment is also regarded as one of the major challenges many people, especially women, face. In other words, the advance in technology has given rise to digital spaces, where women are more ridiculed and harassed than men.

For instance, it is common to find a jilted lover exposing nude pictures of their ex-girlfriends on social media platforms in what is locally called “revenge porn”. This degrades women’s status in society. This kind of women abuse largely thrives due to the absence of proper legislation restraining the act.
Therefore, unless Parliament makes a stringent law against GBV and also allocates substantial resources and equips the relevant organs or agencies with modern technology and skills to handle these cases, the situation will only get worse. The government remains largely unprepared to handle some new forms of GBV or violence against women (VAW), especially cyber abuse.

Laws such as the Penal Code (Amendment) Act, 2007, the Domestic Violence Act, 2010, the Sexual Offences Bill and the Marriage Bill do not address key aspects of VAW. None of these laws, for instance, criminalises marital rape.
The government needs to strengthen efforts to establish specialised courts to handle GBV and related cases. It should also remove social barriers that discourage GBV survivors from reporting abuse to the police or other relevant authorities. It should also prioritise gender responsive budgeting to address GBV challenges.

The Domestic Violence Act does not cover cohabiting partners, while the 2004 amendment to the Land Act of 1998, requires spousal consent to sex, but does not recognise coownership of land between spouses.
Poor funding for VAW programmes also remains a huge challenge. A look at the budgets for the sectors mandated to address VAW is worrying. While activities are listed in the budgets, there are no monetary allocations. Most of the work on VAW is donor funded and concentrated in project areas.

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GBV is one of the worst expression of gender inequality as it perpetuates inequalities, which in principle goes against the development agendas cited above.
The government needs to strengthen efforts to establish specialized courts specifically to prosecute GBV cases and remove social barriers that discourage survivors of GBV from reporting abuse to the police or other justice actors in addition to prioritising gender responsive budgeting aimed at addressing GBV.

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