200 Kayunga men battered by their wives every year

Mr Mugwere and his wife in a duel at their home in Kisaaba village, Kayunmga Town council. 

What you need to know:

  • In 2022, 154 men reported that they had been beaten by their wives while in 2023, the number increased to 203 men. On average, Fred Muzaale reports, every day four men report assault cases, in some cases, men are severely injured.

A faded coat draped over his shoulders, and carrying a backpack bag on his back, 50-year-old Musa Kaano Mugwere walks with a slight limp. Previously, the resident of Kisaaba village in Kayunga Town council, Ntengeru County, in Kayunga District, had not physical disability. Kaano, a builder, says he got injured in the right leg last November during a fight with his wife.

During the brawl, his 44-year-old wife inflicted a big wound on his knee. The wound has since healed, although the pain lingers.

Although many men are afraid to disclose that their wives beat them, Kaano is different. He speaks without hesitation.

“I was beaten by my wife after she found out that I had secretly married a second wife. It was her first time to beat me. We have been married for 28 years and have nine children. We were happy and loved each other until last year when I took a second wife. My wife’s behavior changed towards me and she started abusing me whenever I returned home,” he says.

 Kaano rented a house for his second wife a kilometer away from his marital home, but this only fueled his first wife’s bitterness. Whenever he returned home from work, she would not give him food.

“Because of her disrespect, I decided to act like a man. I also began abusing her. Instead of cowering in fear, she pounced on me. Some of our children joined in the fight and helped their mother to beat me. I was wounded on the knee and sought treatment at Kayunga Regional Referral Hospital,”Kaano recalls with a stony face.

Against the advice of friends, he reported a case of assault against his wife at Kayunga District Social Welfare and Probation office.

“Some men said reporting the matter would bring shame on me, but I dismissed their advice. The social welfare officer convened a family meeting and summoned my wife and children. The intervention brought some relief at home. However, to avoid more hostility from my first wife, I have relocated my second wife to a faraway place,” he says.

Violence against men on the rise

Statistics from the Uganda Police Force’s Annual Crime Reports from the last six years, show that domestic violence is among the top three crimes reported at police stations across the country, after theft and common assault.

In 2023, 3,243 men were victims of domestic violence. 2022 had 3,728 men as victims. 2021 had 3,103 men as victims. In 2020, 3,408 men were victims. In 2019, 2,908 men were victims. And 2018 had 2,873 men as victims of domestic violence.

The lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 saw an unprecedented increase in the cases of domestic violence recorded.

However, if one goes by the other statistics, from 2018 the cases of domestic violence reported by men are on the rise. In 2023, in general, the crime rate went down, but the number of cases registered with male victims are still high compared to other years.

Kaano is one of many male victims of domestic violence in the remote central Uganda district of Kayunga, popularly referred to as the ‘United Nations of Uganda’ because of its multi-ethnicity.

Mr Mugwere shows off a wound sustained during a fight with his wife last year.   PHOTOS | FRED MUZAALE

 Records from the district show that annually, at least 200 men report assault cases against their wives to police and other relevant offices.

Collins Kafeero, the district’s social welfare and probation officer, says the number of men who report such incidents to his office has increased in the last three years.

“In 2022, 154 men reported that they had been beaten by their wives. In 2023, the number increased to 203 men. On average, every day four men report assault cases. In some cases, men are severely injured. For fear of being laughed at, many men opt to suffer in silence. I blame the rise in this trend on drunkenness, promiscuity, men not fulfilling their responsibilities at home and poverty,” he says.

Hellen Alikoba, the Officer in-charge of the Family Child and Protection Unit at Kayunga Police Station, concurs with Kafeero, adding that most male victims of domestic violence are aged 45 and above and are married to women who are much younger than them.

“The main reason why women beat their husbands is that some of them (men) have abandoned their responsibilities. They no longer pay school fees for the children or buy food at home, but they still want their wives to submit to them. When the women stop obeying their husbands, the men become hostile. This forces the women to beat them,” she says.

Zero respect

Daudi Kalibbala, a resident of Bukolooto town, in Kayunga Town Council was battered by his wife after she accused him of not providing enough for the family.

“I lost my job during the Covid-19 induced lockdowns. My wife stopped respecting me because I could not buy food for the family. In December last year, she attacked me when I asked her to serve me supper. During the fight, my left leg was severely injured and I reported a case of assault at Kayunge Central Police Station,” says the 45-year-old Kalibbala.

The couple had been married for 11 years and has two children. Kalibbala says he did not, for a moment, imagine that his wife would one day beat or abuse him because she had always been calm and respectful.

“Even though the police tried to counsel us, things failed to work out and we separated. My wife has since legally divorced me, leaving me to raise our six-year-old son alone,” Kalibbala adds.

Joel Wangwa, a human rights lawyer with Uganda Christian Lawyers Fraternity (UCLF), attributes the rise in number of women who beat their husbands on the former (women) understanding their rights.

“Previously, men could grab anything that belonged to their wives. But now, women – especially urban women – know their rights and are determined to defend them. Besides, these days women are also breadwinners and because they earn, they do not submit to their husbands’ orders,” he says.

Kafeero lays the blame on women’s rights advocacy, which has seen an emphasis on the rights and privileges of the girl child, leaving the boy child neglected.

“Women organisations and the government are concentrating on the proper upbringing up the girl child. Over the years, boys have been neglected and now, the emancipated girls are marrying irresponsible men, who do not want to engage in gainful employment, which then leads to domestic violence. This discrimination should be abolished if we want couples to respect each other,” he says.

While the number of female victims of domestic violence is still high, district officials are trying to fight the vice of women beating their husbands through community outreaches, sensitization of the public and engagement meeting. Couples are being encouraged to report their disagreements to relevant authorities such as, the police and local councils, as opposed to fighting each other.

Problem statement

In Uganda, GBV is perceived as a critical national problem and a gross violation of fundamental human rights, with severe, longterm negative impacts on the physical, sexual, and mental wellbeing of the survivors, family, and community. 

According to the Uganda Demographic Health Survey (UDHS) 2011, GBV is perceived as one of the complex social phenomenon especially given the social structures and processes that reinforce its occurrence. In its complexity, GBV not only occurs amongst intimate relationships, but it can occur in families, communities and workplaces. It further indicates that GBV is still socially acceptable amongst women and men. The survey indicates that 58 percent women and 43.7percent men aged 15-49, accept that a husband is justified to hit or beat his wife for any one of the reasons such as 2 burning food, arguing with him, going out of home without telling him, neglecting children or refusing him sexual intercourse.

In an earlier survey in 2006, the UDHS indicated that most Ugandans had experienced inter-personal violence in their lives whether of physical, sexual or emotional nature. The survey further indicated that while both women and men experience GBV, women are more likely to suffer every form of Violence (UDHS, 2006) with majority cases of violence against women committed by an intimate partner.

The Uganda Police Annual Crime report 2014 raises a concern over the increase in incidents of violent crimes against persons such as Homicides, Defilements, Robberies and Child related crimes, domestic violence and threatening violence among others. The report indicates that in 2014, a total of 3,006 cases of Domestic Violence were investigated compared to 3,426 cases in 2013. While this represents a decline in GBV occurrences, defilement remained the first of the 10 leading crimes in 2013 and 2014.  The prevalence, complexity and the social acceptance of Gender Based Violence (GBV) have generated the recognition that the prevention and response to GBV requires broad community participation and particularly the participation of men and boys.