Busoga authorities decry gender based violence against women with disabilities

By April 17, 2020: In Uganda alone, Police had registered 328 domestic violence related cases during the period of a one month nationwide lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Ms Betty Mutesi* an 18-year-old leaving with epilepsy also a resident of Jinja, got an attack in church but unfortunately, one of the church leaders raped her and conceived and the owner denied the pregnancy

Cases of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) against women and girls with disabilities are very rampant in Busoga sub-region.

GBV is directed against a person because of their gender. Both women and men experience GBV but the majority of victims are women and girls.

However, GBV cases are very rampant when it comes to women and girls with disabilities including those with a mental disorder, visually impaired, deaf, those living with Albinism, and those with physical disabilities among others.

Ms Sandra Nangobi* a resident of Kamuli Municipality with a physical disability has experienced several episodes of sexual violence fueled by her biological father.

“I cannot move normally because my lower body part is paralyzed but my dad used to hire different men to have sex with me without my consent. It psychologically affected me because I am also a human being,’’ she said.

Ms Betty Mutesi* an 18-year-old leaving with epilepsy also a resident of Jinja, got an attack in church but unfortunately, one of the church leaders raped her and conceived and the owner denied the pregnancy.

These are some of the very many cases of GBV cases among people with disabilities in Busoga sub-region.

The Executive Director of Source of the Nile Union of Persons with Albinism (SNUPA) Mr Peter Ojik said girls living with Albinism are sexually abused because of the myth that having sex with them cures HIV/AIDS.

“One of our members Lilian Nakavuma died of HIV/Aids after a man slept with her on the grounds that he was going to get cured of AIDS after having intercourse with her. She realized his intention when it was too late,’’ he said.

Mr Ojik said women living with Albinism are also psychologically abused because men who marry them don’t want the public to know that they are their wives.

“Men abandon women living with Albinism, others sneak into homes at night because they don’t want the community to know who they are married to. When mothers produce children with Albinism, the men abandon them and they start struggling with their children single-handedly,’’ he added.

Mr Joel Ssemwanga from the Uganda Mental Health Fellowship (UHMF), an association of people living with mental illness in Busoga sub-region, based at Bugembe Health Centre IV in Jinja City, said their main focus is to advocate for the rights of girls with a mental disorder.

The Executive Director of Integrated Disabled Women Activities (IDIWA) an Iganga-based Non-Government Organization, Ms Elizabeth Kayaga cited sexual violence as the most common characteristic of gender-based violence against women and girls living with disabilities.

“Women and girls with disabilities are sexually abused. They are raped by residents and relatives. When they are left at home men take advantage of them especially the blind and the deaf,’’ she said.

“We have to teach them how to keep evidence in case of rape. They will start recording them because we are in a digital world because the visually impaired are also using digital phones, those who are deaf, they have to know the features of the suspects so that they can have justice,’’ she added.

The Chairperson of Busoga Gender-Based Violence and Disability Rights Network, Ms Anna Aparo said in the survey they conducted in 2020 in Mayuge District, cases of gender violence against girls and women with disability were at 87 per cent.

Way Forward

Ms Aparo said they have started working with all stakeholders to ensure violence-free society through empowering these girls and women.

The executive director of Women Rights Initiative (WORI) Ms Rose Kigere said they have so far received seven cases of gender-based violence against women and girls with disability since last year but they have started rehabilitating and skilling them so that they can be empowered.

“In 2017 we constructed a shelter to rehabilitate the victims and also skill them so that they can be able to sustain themselves because they don’t usually get formal employment. We have women with physical disabilities but they are single mothers of children from multiple relationships because men abandon them after giving birth,” she said.

Ms Kigere said most victims of violence don’t receive justice because of their mobility issues which can’t enable them to reach to the police to report cases of abuse while others fear being stigmatized because of double vulnerability.

According to the nationwide survey conducted in 2021 by the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU), Busoga region is in the top position in terms of gender-based violence.

Busoga registered 62 per cent of cases of gender abuse followed by Karamoja with 60 per cent cases.

The Uganda Bureau of Statistics data reflects that 51.9 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 experience spousal violence, and 22 percent experienced sexual violence. 35 per cent of girls experience sexual violence and 59 per cent of females experience physical violence during childhood.

According to the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development, the impact of violence against women and girls translates into setbacks on human capital development, drains national resources in the huge cost of response services, lost productivity, and the worst loss of lives, which ultimately deter the nation from achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) targets.