KAMPALA – 76% of women from regions of Eastern, Northern, Western and Karamoja say that men still believe that a woman is a weaker sex, with less authority which has resulted in women being denied ownership of resources, creating a psychological effect on them, the study has revealed.
The baseline survey report – “From Access to Equality (FATE): Empowering Women to Access Justice in Uganda”, funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Uganda is a joint action led by Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF), Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET), Penal Reform International (PRI) and Barefoot Law (BFL).
The report was launched on Tuesday at Sheraton Hotel Kampala at an event graced by Mutuuzo Peace – Minister of State for Gender and Culture Affairs.
According to the survey, only 16% of women believed women and men were treated equally by society.
“Despite this, most women (78%) were confident that they deserved to have equal access to their rights and explained that both men and women are capable of doing the same work at household and community level and ‘both are human beings that deserve equal treatment. Whilst only small minority (17%) disagreed explaining that ‘gender equality is not practical’ and that ‘men are more knowledgeable than women’”.
Survey findings indicated that over 68% of participants had their rights violated and/or knew of someone who had their rights violated. Interestingly, this was very high (66% – 84%) in most districts apart from in Masindi and Napak (35% and 39% respectively), where a lower number of participants had neither been affected or knew someone who had experienced a violation of their human rights.
Data show that women are denied basic human rights and are not allowed to engage in income-generating activities, among other reasons. “Decision-makers interviewed also stated that women were not treated equally by society for example, in Gulu District, a CDO highlighted that ‘Acholi culture makes people think that.”
Participants indicated that the majority of crimes that were reported by themselves or someone they knew included cases of physical violence; disputes with family, neighbours or friends; sexual violence; economic violence; emotional violence; and theft and robbery. Similarly, interviews with key informants highlighted that gender-based violence (GBV) and land rights incidents were the most common types of cases reported across the four regions. The main perpetrators of GBV identified by the women interviewed in the survey include partners/husbands (87%), another family member (6%), women (3%) and youth (2%).
The survey findings indicated that whilst most women (92%) were aware of their right to own land, only 60% stated that they were able to practice this right their community. Interestingly, data across districts shows that this practice was particularly limited in specific districts such as Lamwo (0%), Gulu (28%) Moroto (33%) and Kamuli (65%). For example, in Kamuli, tensions involving land are very common and some women and girls are unaware of their rights to own land under the constitution, usually, because cultural norms often discourage this practice. In KIIs with CSOs in Kamull, it was mentioned that because of this lack of knowledge some women are ‘tricked to silence them on issues regarding land” so that they do not challenge decisions
The study also revealed that harmful traditional practices are common across the regions, although this is especially present in Karamoja.
“Child marriage was also identified as a major issue affecting girls. In Karamoja, child marriage is a custom and many community members as well as opinion leaders’ practice this: ‘once a girl looks physically old enough, she will be brought out of school and forced into marriage’. Despite the majority of decision-makers knowing the legal age of marriage in Uganda, the age of children is not considered as an important factor, which leads to many girls losing their agency and becoming pregnant at a young age.”
According to a cultural leader in Kamuli, in some villages, parents encourage child marriage because they look at girls as source of wealth through bride price. A KII with local council representative in Karamoja stated that he regularly hears about cases of child marriage where a father has forced his child to marry an older man. Additionally, child marriage is sometimes seen as a solution to the rape of a child, continuing the cycle of abuse. A KII with local authorities in Gulu stressed that there are many instances where a case of child sexual abuse leads to parents sitting down with the perpetrator to negotiate a dowry.
Speaking at the event, Minister Mutuuzo said that access to justice is a key pillar in addressing gender-based violence which has escalated to the magnitude of a pandemic exacerbated by the COVID 19 Pandemic.
She noted that women’s access to justice is constrained by among other factors social-cultural norms, attitudes and practices.
“They lack awareness of legal rights, and legal procedures of how to access legal aid which can stem from gender differences in educational levels, access to information and lack of financial resources.”
Mutuuzo said that the government has put in place a conducive legal and policy environment to ensure that justice is accessed by all its citizens.
“The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (1995) Chapter 3:20(1) guarantees fundamental and other human rights freedoms, Chapter 4 Section 33 specifies full and equal dignity of women with men enhancing the welfare of women, protection of women and their rights taking into account their unique status and maternal functions.”
“Other laws and policies have been enacted to enforce the Constitutional provisions and these include: The Penal Code Act (Cap 120), the Land Act (Amendment 2010). The Domestic Violence Act (2010) and its regulations (2011), the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Action (2010), the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act (2009) and the Equal Opportunities Commission Act (2007),” she said.
Following this, Mutuuzo says that women’s access to justice has improved over the years.
According to the Uganda Police Annual Crime Report 2021, 17533 cases of domestic violence were reported with a total of 12877 women and 702 girls. 1486 cases of rape were reported and Sex-related offences constituted 8.2% of crimes reported. 6191 defilement cases were taken to court and, 939 cases secured convictions, 24 were acquitted, 174 dismissed and 5054 still pending in court. 5009 cases are still under investigation.
The minister said that her docket will continue to strengthen partnership with all stakeholders to execute its mandate on achieving gender equality and empowerment of women in Uganda.
Netherlands Ambassador to Uganda, Karin Boven commended Uganda for making great progress towards gender equality with an extensive legal framework, several policies, guidelines, national action plans, and strategies on GBV prevention and response.
She said that these policies amongst others show Uganda’s commitment towards the elimination of all forms of violence against women.
However, Ambassador said that despite the positive progress, there are still many challenges for Ugandans especially women it comes to access to justice.
“The majority of women are disproportionally affected due to the high cost, distance to courts and negative cultural practices.”
She noted that in Uganda, there is still gender equalities manifested in women having liberty in wage employment, agricultural sectors, lack of control of productive resources, exposure to GBV, educational inequalities with man and community division making.
“Therefore, it is important to continue having discussions on the existing challenges so that women can be supported to access to justice.”
Madam Ambassador said her country is committed to the cause of achieving gender equality in general but access to justice for women especially.