KAMPALA – The Uganda Network on Law and Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET) has engaged the boda boda riders to help disperse voices of ending Gender-based Violence and HIV/AIDS transmission.
On Friday, UGANET joined the rest of the global community to observe the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence under the theme “UNiTE! Activism to end violence against women and girls”.
This international campaign focuses on the call for the elimination of all forms of Gender-Based Violence and culminates in the celebration of International Human Rights Day on 10th December.
The organization that works to strengthen an appropriate policy, legal, human rights and ethical response to Health and HIV/AIDS in Uganda, working with the leadership of the market areas of Kalirwe, Nakawa, and Kasubi, conducted community outreach on GBV and HIV by giving out Boda Boda helmets with GBV call-to-action messages.
Ms. Grace Nayiga – the Acting Executive Director at UGANET says that it’s important to take the campaign to the communities because it amplifies the voices.
She says that Uganda has over the last years tried to deal with the epidemics but has only concentrated on how to prevent and access treatment.
“As UGANET, we realize that there are gaps around human rights issues and I think that is where our gaps have been watered down. As we looked at HIV as a disease, we neglected the ethical issues around it, we neglected the human rights of persons living with HIV.”
“As a country, we have been struggling with issues like Covid-19 and Ebola and I think it has put us to a test of determining how prepared we are to address such epidemics but also at the same time not losing our big efforts in fighting HIV,” she said.
Speaking of the human rights issues around HIV, Ms. Nayiga decried some sections on statutes of Uganda’s law books that criminalize HIV noting that because of that and all other practices around stigma and discrimination that have not been addressed, the efforts in addressing and ending HIV are being futile.
According to the Police Crime Report for 2021, a total of 17,533 Domestic Violence cases; 1,486 cases of rape; 14,570 cases of Defilement, and 16,373 sex-related crimes were registered last year.
While these numbers on their own are worrying, more terrifying is the prosecution rates remain low which is a direct indicator of the low access to justice for survivors of GBV. For instance, in 2021, only 1,640 (9.3%) of Domestic Violence cases were taken to court and only 464 (2.6%) cases secured convictions. Only 667 rape suspects (44.8%) of the total cases) were charged in court with a mere 25 (1.7%) convictions secured. Similarly, only 42% of the registered defilement cases ended up in court with only 939 cases securing convictions.
Community-Based Services departments reported a 49.5% staffing gap and in FY 2021/22, Government allocated a meagre UGX 7.64 billion for Community Mobilisation and Campaign programmes shared across more than 176 Local Governments. This leaves a funding gap of UGX. 24.75 billion.
Ms. Caroline Naboosa, a lawyer working with UGANET said, “We have given out helmets with a label HEAR HER CRY meaning that; hear this lady, your daughter, your mother, sister crying and intervene.”
She is worried that gender-based violence which has been on the rise ever since the lockdown is still persistent.
She, however, noted that you cannot fight against domestic violence and GBV without fighting HIV and the reverse is true.
“Chances are high that where there is domestic violence and GBV, there is a likelihood of HIV transmission but also where there is HIV, chances of violence are high.”
Ms. Naboosa noted that this has been also triggered by some of the norms in the country.
“There are some parts where they still believe in wife inheritance regardless of HIV status. If the husband dies, a brother has to inherit the wife regardless of what the husband died of,” she said.
“The cases of aggregated defilement where the perpetrator is the father or the relative are high and they don’t report because they are protecting their family at the expense of the victim,” she added.
According to UGANET, it is normally young girls and women that are affected by gender-based violence, giving examples of child marriages and teenage pregnancies.
They say that many people have been violated against because of HIV but also there are people who have gotten HIV because of violence.