51% Ugandan Women Violated: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
By Tshepo Tlhacoane, South Africa
The PLATFORM for the NEEDY (PLANE) joins the international community in marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which also launches 16 days of activism against gender-based violence (GBV). The theme for this year is ‘investing to prevent violence against women and girls. This aims to highlight the importance of investing in different prevention strategies to stop violence from the beginning. Join this movement with #NoExcuse slogans. This calls for urgent investment to prevent violence against women and girls, globally and in Uganda.
Violence against women and girls remains one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world. And this is confirmed by statistics which show that globally, 736 million, which is 1 in 3 women, have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their life.
Gender-based violence (GBV) is an everyday threat for Ugandan women and girls. National demographic data from 2020 reveal that 56% of married women aged 15-49 reported having suffered physical and/or sexual violence by a husband (Uganda Bureau of Statistics, 2021).
120 girls defiled by parents in 2020 up (42.9% increase) from 84 in 2019. 17,664 domestic violence cases in 2020, up by 29% from 13,693 in 2019. 18,872 victims of domestic violence in 2020: 3,408 male adults, 13,145 female adults, 1,133 male juveniles and 1,186 female juveniles (Annual Police Crime Report, 2020).
According to the 2016 Uganda Demographic Health Survey (UDHS), 51 per cent of women aged 15-19 years have ever experienced physical violence. More than one in five (22 per cent) women have ever experienced sexual violence in their lifetimes (UBOS & ICF, 2018).
Levels of violence against women increase in settings such as the workplace and online spaces. This was exacerbated by post-pandemic efforts, conflicts, and climate change, as the scarcity for resources has been found to lead to increased levels of violence against women and girls.
GBV remains largely unreported due to impunity, stigma, silence, and shame. It presents itself in physical, sexual, and psychological forms in the following ways:
Sexual violence and harassment (rape, forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual advances, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, street harassment, stalking, cyber harassment)
Female gender mutilation
While GBV can happen to any woman or girl at anytime, anywhere, there are some groups of women and girls that are particularly vulnerable to experiencing GBV. This includes young girls and older women, those who identify as lesbians and bisexuals, migrants, and refugees.
In Uganda, surveys show that GBV ranks at the top of Ugandans’ priorities among women’s rights issues that require government and societal attention. This is because GBV is an everyday threat to women and girls, with statistics from 2020 revealing that 56% of married women between 15-49 have suffered physical and sexual violence by their husbands. Additionally, more than 1 in 3 (36%) had experienced sexual violence, more often from a partner, and 28% of women and girls had reported victimization by sexual violence in the last year.
Child sexual abuse is also prevalent in Uganda, with 59% of women reporting sexual abuse in childhood. The national data also shows that 33% of girls below the age of 15 were forced into sex.
The solution to reducing and ending GBV, globally and in Uganda, is in robust responses, including investment in prevention. Unfortunately, statistics reveal that countries around the world are committing low amounts of money to counteract violence against women. Statistics show that just 5% of government aid is focused on tackling violence against women and girls, and that less than 0.2 % is directed towards prevention.
As part of fulfilling Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Gender Equality, the Ugandan government has enacted laws and policies that target GBV. This includes the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2010, the Domestic Violence Act of 2010, the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2009, the Uganda Gender Policy of 2007, and the National Policy on the Elimination of Gender Based Violence in Uganda of 2016.
The Ugandan government and its partners have also put in place mechanisms to improve the reporting and handling of GBV crimes. This includes additional Ugandan Police Force units and providing training devoted to child and family protection along with sexual offenses.
Although there have been investments in the Police Force, stigma hinders the progress that the Police Force can make in the fight against GBV. This is because women in Uganda are not inclined to report GBV cases to the Police Force as the majority of women believe that members of the Police Force believe that domestic violence is a private matter that should be handled within the family.
The lack of reporting is confirmed by national statistics which reveal that of the women that said that they experienced GBV, only a minority reported it to the police. The lack of reporting is concerning due to the high number of GBV cases that make up the Police Force’s caseload. Between 2016 and 2021, the Ugandan Police Force reported 272,737 GBV cases, including 2278 homicide cases which were attributed to intimate partners. Additionally, domestic violence cases account for 33% of the female homicide caseload.
PLANE calls for the increase in investment and other interventions to protect the rights of women and girls, both in Uganda and globally. We also commit to continuing our work to protect and educate women and girls in Uganda of their legal and human rights.
PLATFORM for the NEEDY commits to intensify its awareness and education interventions using radio talkshows, community dialogues and drama to so as to prevent and reduce the acts of violence against women and girls in Uganda.