Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Members of the Gender Committee of Parliament have questioned the government’s commitment to end Gender-Based Violence.
Cases of Gender-Based Violence still top the list of crimes that were committed in the country, according to the 2020 police crime report and have gone up in recent months, following a COVID-19 induced lockdown that left millions of people stuck in homes across the country.
Records show that Uganda is recording an increase in Female Genital Mutilation, an outlawed practice that remains prevalent in Sebei and Karamoja regions. Also on the rise are cases of torture, rape and defilement which have resulted in a rise in teenage pregnancies and forced marriages in the country. Recent statistics indicate that 30 per cent of women or one of every three women is a victim of physical and or sexual domestic violence.
But legislators who were in Kapchorwa and Tororo districts on Thursday stated that the government seems not committed to the fight against Gender-Based Violence, citing the absence of both the political and technical will despite the existence of laws that would be very instrumental in ending practices that have ruined lives and families.
The chairperson of the committee Flavia Kabahenda Rwabuhoro observed that they have not found any political or technical leader in the districts they have gone to as part of their ongoing visits. The team has so far been to the Eastern and Northern parts of the county on a visit seeking to understand triggers for Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and persistent Female Genital Mutilation.
She said that the government has instead left the fight to non-state actors like Action Aid adding that even the police that is supposed to implement the laws is not well funded. MPs now want the government to commit more funding to GBV shelters and rescue centres across the the country.
Kapchorwa District Community Development Officer Harriet Aseko told the group that the district has registered over 4,700 cases of Gender-Based Violence since the outbreak of COVID-19 but hastens to add that the vices persist in the region because of poor enforcement of the laws. The court’s for example, always ask them to present the missing parts of the female organs to prove cases of mutilation.
Sheeba Namulindwa, the Action-Aid coordinator in the Sebei region said that the failure to fund the enforcement of laws makes the entire effort ineffective, yet even the police officers who are supposed to enforce the laws are not trained about the same.
The Uganda Demographic Health Survey 2016 reported that 51 per cent of women aged 15-49 years had experienced physical violence, while the Police Annual Crime Report 2020 indicated a 29 percent increase in cases of domestic violence reported to police from 13,893 in 2019 to 17,664 cases in 2020.
The report also put the Eastern and Northern as the regions with the highest cases of domestic violence in the country.