PARLIAMENT – Legislators on the Select Committee investigating sexual violence in institutions of learning have called on Government to establish Fund that money meant to compensate victims will be kept and withdrawn when need arises.
The proposal of the Committee was revealed by Gomba West MP, Robina Rwajooka during the tabling of the report on the floor of Parliament.
“Government should consider establishing a special Fund for compensation of victims of sexual violence,” read the report in part.
Rwakoojo told Parliament that during investigations, the Committee noted concerns by stakeholders that the legal framework against sexual violence adopts a perpetrator centric approach focusing on punishing the perpetrator and less on the well-being of the victims, yet the victims often require financial support to cope with the debilitating physical and mental health consequences of sexual violence.
The Committee noted that while the Penal Code Act (as amended) empowers courts to provide compensation to victims of defilement or aggravated defilement, this provision is discretionary and restrictive since it is limited only to defilement cases.
She said; “The compensation order is superfluous since the victim has to wait for the release of a convicted perpetrator from prison after many years before being compensated.”
Rwakoojo added that the current state of affairs discourages victims of sexual violence from pursuing legal remedies and instead impels them to negotiate with perpetrators who give them peanuts to settle cases out of court.
“The committee observes that while compensation cannot erase the trauma and grief a victim of sexual violence and their family suffers, it is imperative that the victims are given financial assistance at least to restore their physical and mental health,” the Committee Chairperson said.
The Committee was instituted by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, following a motion tabled by Ann Adeke, National Women Youth MP, following numerous complaints from students in Makerere University and Kibuli Secondary School last year.
In its recommendations to Parliament, the Committee called on Parliament to consider and pass into law the Sexual Offences Bill 2015, with emphasis put on incorporating a provision for mandatory compensation of victims of sexual violence.
With the investigation centring on sexual violence in institutions of learning, the MPs want legislations put in place to empower courts to attach the pension or social security benefits of perpetrators to support victims of sexual abuse.
The Committee argued that this will restore the hope of victims, enhance reporting and. deter prospective abusers from engaging in the vice.