The Deputy Inspector General of Police Maj Gen Sabiiti Muzeeyi has called for a law to protect witnesses of sexual and gender based violence.
Sabiiti said such a legislation would not only ensure protection for victims of sexual violence to participate in justice processes but also lead to the fulfilment of accountability processes.
“There is no witness protection law,” said Sabiiti on Tuesday.
“The lack of the law has an adverse impact on some victims of very serious SGBV cases who will fear to appear in court or even to aid police investigations because they fear stigmatization or even for their lives,” he emphasized.
“If the environment was friendly, for example by keeping them in separate rooms or by not requiring the victims to appear in court in person, it would improve the quality of evidence. Technology through video-links can bridge this gap.”
Sabiiti spoke today during the the launch of the training of police officers and their families on Gender Based Violence and Sexual Reproductive Health at CID headquarters in Kibuli, Kampala.
The Uganda Demographic Health Survey (UDHS) 2016 shows that women are more than twice as likely to have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives as men.
A 2007 report by the Ministry of Health identified the most prevalent types of violence at the time as wife battering (30%), defilement (25%), rape (20%), marital rape (13%) and sexual exploitation (12%).
Sabiiti further said the adversarial system which Uganda inherited from the common law of England remained inherently problematic in terms of SGBV cases.
“It creates a very antagonistic environment where parties who have to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt fail to appreciate the fragile nature of SGBV victims or survivors,” said Sabiiti.
“This factor has a huge bearing on the success of such cases. This is made worse by cultural aspects that affect the response to some questions. The courts do not usually take this into consideration,” he emphasised.
Sabiiti said Uganda Police continues to strengthen the Forensic capabilities in dealing with investigations of SGBV related offences to improve the quality of evidence.
“I use this opportunity to thank UNFPA for supporting our forensic capabilities with biosafety fridges, sexual assault kits, and other field tools. The legal minds should address the question of victim protection and this, combined with the Forensic efforts will definitely improve rates of conviction,” said Sabiiti.
“We have also embarked on awareness and sensitization for both Police and communities. The target is to have improved reporting and also reduce stigmatization,” he emphasised.
He said gender based violence remained one of the “most notable human rights violations within all societies and needs to be tackled with the seriousness and the focus it deserves.”
The program which will cover 14 districts is expected to improve awareness of the nature and manifestation of GBV, reduce social tolerance for GBV and improve attitudes as police handle such cases.