KAMPALA – The Uganda Women’s Network – UWONET has tasked the Parliament of Uganda to fast-track the gender bills that were recently returned to the 11th Parliament, including the Sexual Offences Bill, 2019 if the country is to fight violence against women and girls.
The Women’s Movement on Monday joined other human rights defenders to mark the end of this year’s 16 Days campaign of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV). This year’s campaign was celebrated under the theme, “UNiTE! Activism to End Violence against Women & Girls.”
Speaking at the event held at Hotel Africana, Ms. Aciro Rita – Executive Director – UWONET noted that violence against women and girls (VAW/G) remains the most widespread and pervasive human rights violation against women in Uganda.
“Violence Against Women (VAW) “is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men” (United Nations Declaration of the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women). VAW is one of the most pervasive human rights violations in the world, affecting at least 1 in 3 women, with high reported cases particularly in Africa.”
There are various forms of VAW/G including; sexual, economic, physical and emotional violence. Examples of economic violence includes; denial of access resources of economic development such as money, property, land, credit, capital, education, theft of proceeds from one’s work, unequal payment structures for women, physical violence includes; rape, defilement, beating, burning, biting, “honor” crimes, forced marriage, Female Genital Mutilation, emotional violence includes; verbal abuse, intimidation, isolation, stalking, humiliation, name calling, defamation, blackmailing, silent treatment, manipulation, body shaming, sexual violence includes; rape and defilement, forced or early marriages, improper body touches, trafficking for sexual reasons, denial/withholding of sexual rights among others.
Ms. Aciro says that the most common form of VAW is intimate partner violence (IPV) by a former or current partner, revealing that Sub-Saharan Africa has a prevalence of 33%. She says that the violence that women face presents a major barrier to the realization of full and equal rights and has severe emotional, physical, sexual, and economic consequences.
The 2021 National Survey on Violence Against Women conducted by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) indicated that 95% of women have experienced physical or sexual violence or both by partners or non- partners since the age of 15 years.
2020 UBOS survey found that 56% of partnered women have experienced intimate partner violence of a sexual or physical nature or both, 76% of women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a non-partner, 22% of these perpetrators being family members, and 86% of women have experienced violence at the workplace. Child marriage is still high in Uganda. 34 percent of women 20-24 years were married or in union before age 18 and 7 percent were married before the age of 15. Available data also indicates that 13 percent and 52 percent of girls and women aged 15–49, respectively, have been subjected to FGM.
According to UWONET, women and girls in Uganda are also faced with the heavy and disproportionate demands of Unpaid Care and Domestic Work (UCDW) which is mostly done by women and girls.
“While the value of unpaid care to keep homes functional cannot be disputed, the disproportionate, labour and time intensive nature negatively affects women’s and girls’ health, and also robs them of the ability to participate in paid work, education, political leadership, entrepreneurship and other opportunities out of the domestic sphere,” said Aciro.
She noted that Uganda faces a number of challenges blocking the freedom of women and girls including;
- Enforcement of the law that prohibits VAW/G and GBV broadly remains a challenge due persistent negative social norms and attitudes towards women’s rights,
- Limited awareness of the law among the practicing communities
- Difficulty in collecting evidence to support prosecution
- Structural and systemic barriers to access to justice related to limited knowledge of the law and navigating justice pathways, financial limitations, limited human resource, and the effects of poverty on the population.
- Weak implementation of laws/policies: The many progressive laws in Uganda that could transform the VAW landscape and enable women to live free from violence require action from decision-makers, particularly in setting up effective mechanisms to facilitate implementation.
- Inadequate budgeting and resourcing: There is inadequate financing by the Government of Uganda to the local governments which then contributes to inadequate funds allocated for mobilisation, empowerment and monitoring at local government level, and;
- Limited gender-power analysis of VAW: Ideas about how to address VAW still largely shy away from dismantling and redistributing power. Instead they focus on fixing the symptoms of power imbalances such as poverty, lack of access to education, and criminalising harmful cultural norms, among others.
She, however, acknowledged the active participation of all stakeholders in government and in civil society which has resulted in:
- Laws and policies for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls.
- Special interventions by the Government of Uganda such as the Special SGBV sessions to expedite the handling of cases of sexual violence
- Gender mainstreaming interventions among law and order institutions by the Government of Uganda to improve gender-responsiveness for survivor-centred services
- Investment in addressing GBV by development partners and government
- The contribution of civil society service. Women’s Rights Organisations and other human rights defenders play an important role in community engagement to raise awareness around GBV and VAW/G, provide legal and psycho-social support, provide shelter services to surivivors tha need physical refuge and protection.
They challenged the Parliament of Uganda to fast track the gender bills that were recently returned to the 11th Parliament, including the Sexual Offences Bill, 2019.
They also called for the prioritization of Justice, Law and Order Sector VAW/G cases that were reported especially as exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Justice system should expedite the investigation and prosecution of these cases.”
UWONET also wants the public to speak out against violence against women and girls and to support victims to reporting to the appropriate authorities.
They recommended that the Government of Uganda, MDAs and Private sector prioritise sufficient investment to tackle VAW/G in Uganda