Since Uganda came under a lockdown almost 7 weeks back, there has been an increase in domestic violence related cases especially against Women and Girls.
According to Police reports and records, since the lockdown came into force in March 2020, there has been over 5000 domestic violence reported cases. The number is allegedly even higher than that considering that only a few victims are able to report such cases while the majority do not have easy access to police stations or fear to report due to cultural and society beliefs associated with domestic violence.
In regards to this, women activists have called on government agencies, Civil Society and the general society to join in the fight against domestic violence if Uganda is to develop economically and socially.
While appearing on NBS TV on a program organised by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development with support from UNFPA and the Austrian Embassy to discuss the Plight of Women and Girls during the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Maria Matembe, a renown Women Activist and former Member of Parliament said that the raising domestic violence cases during the lockdown only exposes what has actually been happening in homes but government has actually not been paying enough attention to these issues.
“The Covid19 pandemic is actually a blessing in this case because it is exposing issues that have been affecting women for the longest time. I hope that after the lockdown, government and civil society will sit back on the drawing board and find a lasting solution by looking at the actual causes of these problems.
According to Dr. Matembe, the major cause of domestic violence is the inequality that are still existing between men and women.
“There are still social, economic and political inequalities that are still holding women back. These are affecting both women and men. We need to also emancipate men to be able to feel confident even with a very powerful and visionary women. A man and woman are all equal human beings with special contributions,” she said.
Agnes Baku Chandia, an assistant commissioner from Ministry of Health said that as the Ministry, they did extra preparations specifically for the lock down like stocking enough supplies for emergency pills and PEP, police forms and registers for sexual violence victims but also ensured that the hospitals haven enough family planning services.
However their efforts are sometimes watered down by the other responsibility holders like Police, Courts of Laws and parents who do not want to follow up on these cases.
“Some of these cases are reported when it is too late. Even after reporting, when they reach the police, they are the ones that suggest out of court settlement where the parents end up receiving some money to abandon the case. Worst case, the money is not even used to rehabilitate the victim physically or psychologically and they end up being traumatized forever. We need all players to work together if sexual and domestic violence cases are to be eliminated,” she noted.
According to Hon. Monica Amoding, the Kumi Woman MP, almost 60% of all women have experienced some sort of domestic violence in Uganda.
She urged the Gender Ministry and other partners to focus on economic empowerment of Women so that they are able to make decisions for themselves.
“In Uganda, the focus has been on political empowerment but women are still not financially and economically empowered. Most of them still depend on men for survival and hence have to endure violence. But also, we must look at how domestic violence is hindering economic productivity of these women. The pandemic should be an opportunity for us to rethink our strategies on how we can eliminate domestic violence,” she said