I read with concern media reports that a man in Kaliro District cut a woman with a power saw because she rejected his advances. This is a clear example of the harm that women and sometimes men go through as a result of misuse of power between the sexes.
In manyr societies in Uganda, violence is never seen as a serious crime, especially when meted out on someone considered to be of a lower status. Men need to be sensitised that women have rights over their bodies and can make decisions on whom to fall in love with. Their decisions should be respected by all people. Many times, victims of gender-based violence do not report to authorities. This may be because of fear of reprisal, self blame, threats, economic dependence on the perpetrator, in accessibility of services and ignorance of their rights and options available.
In this particular case, it was reported that the man kept camp at the woman’s house every night without her reporting to the authorities which could be an indicator that may be she was not aware of her rights and available options of how to deal with the problem or she just felt no one would believe her. It is unfortunate to see that such cases still happen and yet we have many laws. The problem is that many of the existing laws have not been enforced. People have not been sensitised about them. I, therefore, suggest the following measures to help deal with the issue of gender-based violence;
There is need to educate communities about the existing laws against violence. Women and other marginalised groups need to be encouraged and supported to report cases of violence so that they can be dealt with according to the law.
There is need to demystify misconceptions about violence as an acceptable phenomenon in society. People need to know that violence is a crime punishable under the law and no one regardless of their social status should experience violence.
For the Kaliro case, the victim needs to be helped to get full treatment, including psychosocial support for her to recover fully. The police should also ensure that the perpetrator is apprehended and given appropriate punishment to serve as an example to others. For as long as the perpetrator is still on the run, this woman’s life remains in danger.
Getting rid of violence is a longterm process and we all have a role to play in this fight. Religious, cultural and political leaders can talk to the people to discourage the practice. Government has a lot to do to enforce the existing laws and civil society organisations should intensify the sensitisation in communities to ensure that people know the causes, effects and mechanisms of ending gender based violence.