Domestic violence extends beyond the physical

Monday December 4 2017


By Gillian Nantume

When we hear of gender-based violence (GBV), the first thing that comes to mind is physical abuse. However, perpetrators have become wiser now because a wound, bruise, or swelling can be used as evidence. But, how do you prove that your spouse is psychologically torturing you?

Economic violence
Joseph Matovu, a 48-year-old businessman who deals in cloth merchandise out Arrow Centre, Mini Price, should be enjoying his middle age.
Unfortunately, he is mentally tormented to the extent that of late, he has begun entertaining ideas of seeing his former spouse dead. The father of four separated from his first wife some years back, and in 2011, he met Lydia Babirye, a mother of four children.

“She was struggling, selling second hand rubber shoes. Because I loved her, I gave her Shs1.2m to open a business selling second hand clothes and we began living together. My older children live in a house I built for them in Kibuli and I also have rentals.
As our love grew, I decided to buy a plot of land and build a house for her. I sold part of my own plot and bought a piece of land in Kiteezi (Wakiso District) at Shs6.2m,” he says.

Matovu made a deposit of Shs5m and began building the house. When he made more money, he told his wife he was going to pay the balance of Shs1.2m.
“She surprised me by saying she had already paid the balance. I asked for the land title and she refused to give it to me. She had connived with the chairman of the area who gave her the land title in her names.”

Unaware that he had been duped, Matovu continued building the house, until in January 2017 when his ‘wife’ left him and entered the unfinished house with her four children. She claims the house is hers and has documents to prove it.
“To make matters worse, she is living in my house with another man whom she now calls her husband. Before she left, she borrowed Shs1.2m from me, which she has refused to return.”

For a year now, Matovu is fighting for his land. Unfortunately, he does not have a copy of a receipt for the first deposit he paid to the chairman to prove that the land is his.
Both of them have hired lawyers but for a year now, there is no headway in their case.

Economic violence is faced by both women and men and according to Regina Bafaki, the executive director of Action for Development (ACFODE), women in rural areas suffer the brunt.
“Economic violence is related to access and control of resources such as land. The women do not own the land and do not determine what it is to be used for. The man may prefer to grow cash crops which bring in money, but she may want to grow food crops for the family. When she succeeds in growing the food crops, the man will only come in during the harvest and selling to take control of the proceeds or have the power to determine the price.”

In such cases, when a woman tries to question the woman’s judgment, he becomes violent and physically assaults her.
“I have heard of elite women who have good education but are forbidden to work by their partners. Some, who are allowed to work, have to give their salaries to their partners at the end of the month, especially those in the informal sector.”

Psychological violence
According to Dora Kiconco Musinguzi, executive director of Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (Uganet), gender-based violence (GBV) can present in many forms.
“Unfortunately, all these forms are somehow compounded. For example, economic violence can also have elements of psychological violence. The perpetrator treats one in such a way that life becomes a mental battle, with a lot of psychological trauma.”

Tom and Angelina Obbo have been married for 30 years and they have eight children and 12 grandchildren. In all those years, her husband has never beaten her. He was the perfect father and husband, until their last child left the home.
“He just does not really talk to me anymore,” Obbo says, continuing, “At first, I thought that it was because we do not have the same interests. While I have always been a housewife, he is still working. He does not eat the food I cook. He comes home late in the night and goes straight to bed without talking to me. We sleep in separate rooms.”

When her husband arrives home in the night, he opens the gate, drives through, and then, leaves it open. It can remain open the whole night.
When he goes to the toilet, he does not flush after using it, especially if he has had a bowel movement. During the last holiday, he brought his university going mistress to live in the house for a month.
“They were sleeping in the same room and every night and morning, I would hear whatever they were doing in that room,” she says.
For psychological violence, the best they can do is seek the services of a counsellor.

“We have a Domestic Violence Act that clearly shows that violence goes beyond the physical forms,” Mr Musinguzi says, adding, “The victim can go to court and report a criminal or civil case. Besides that, she should seek counselling. However, the type of counselling matters. Some religious and women’s groups that counsel women always tell them to stay put because that is what others are facing in their marriages. We encourage women to seek professional counselling that empowers them, instead of blaming themselves.”

Sexual violence
Sexual violence in a domestic setting does not only consist of marital rape. It also includes the denial of the right to use contraception or adopt measures to protect oneself against HIV.
Sheila Nambaziira and Anthony Mubiru have been in a relationship for eight months. Currently, the relationship does not have a future because her fiancé does not want to have an HIV test.

“Before we began sexual relations, we agreed that we would go for a test. However, he has kept on dodging the appointments, saying an HIV test is not urgent. I am not so sure about his sexual history but every time we have sex, he does not want to use a condom.”
Traumatised, Nambaziira has been advised by her friends to end the relationship because she was not the first lover her fiancé had. Unlike other forms of GBV, sexual violence in the domestic setting – and other settings – is not often talked about because of the high stigma attached to it.

It includes date rape, crimes of passion, marital rape, child marriages, and forced abortions, among others.
“Many young girls have been sexually abused just because they are searching for economic independence,” Bafaki says, continuing, “We have heard of girls who have to sleep with the boss to get a job or to earn a salary. Also, domestic workers can be abused when they demand for their salary.”