The statistics of domestic violence and sexual assault against women in Uganda are disturbing.
Kampala, Uganda | PATRICIA AKANKWATSA | According to the latest Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) of 2011, 56% of women from age 15 to 29 years have experienced physical violence and 28 percent of women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. That means that more than half of Ugandan women have been abused at home, at school, or at work.
Sexual violence, especially against girls, is equally widespread with 77.7% of the primary school children and 82% of the secondary school students experiencing sexual abuse while at school.
The attacks differ: 8% of girls are subjected to defilement, 24% are spoken to in a sexual way, 18% receive marriage proposals, and 25% are fondled/touched in a sexual manner while 29% are made to watch sexual scenes (pornography). Of the female students sampled, 67% of reported to have been sexually abused by a male teacher.
Prevalence of child marriage in Uganda is 40 %. Prevalence of child marriages is highest in northern Uganda estimated at 59%, followed by Western region (58%), Eastern region (52%), East-central (52%), West Nile (50%), Central (41%), Southwest (37%), and lowest in Kampala (21%).
The estimated prevalence of FGM/C among girls and women between 15-49 years of age is 1.4%. Up to 134,000 women are affected.
Up to 25 percent of adolescents aged 15-19 have begun childbearing and 19% of women aged 15-19 years have given birth. Adolescent childbearing is more common in rural than in urban areas (27% versus 19% respectively).
Why the prevalence
According to a research report by Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET), alcoholism is a leading factor in domestic violence. Men return home drunk and beat up women. Often it is because they have been denied conjugal rights. The women complain that men who come back home smelling alcohol make any act of intimacy unbearable.
Many people who drink alcohol smell bad because the body treats alcohol like a toxin and rushes to excrete it as urine, breathe, and sweat. For this to happen, the body mechanisms breakdown the alcohol into smaller parts of water, carbon dioxide, and diacetic acid. The stench is from the diacetic acid which has a smell that mimics vinegar. Men need to understand that. If they have intimacy in mind, they better drink lots of water with their drink as it aids the faster excretion of the alcohol. Remember that the body can only process one beer per hour. So, any extra you take in an hour has to be flushed out ASAP in raw form.
Despite economic and social change throughout the country, some cultural and religious beliefs that disadvantage women and girls remain and cloud peoples’ perception of right and wrong.
Among the Karamojong of northeastern Uganda, for instance, the culture of courtship rape persists. This is where boys carried away girls for two weeks and hide them in the bush. The boys then drive cattle to the girl’s parent’s home as assign of intended marriage. There is no negotiation. Sometimes the girls are as young as 12 years. But Parents of the girl dare not ask questions or risk being beaten up. According to reports by the Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET), even if the police are alerted, they usually do not intervene. A few who have intervened have been beaten by the rapists.
The Karamojong do not send their children; especially girls, to school. But even children, in other parts of the country who attend school are culturalised in ways that undermine women and girls. Ignorant teachers perpetuate negative gender roles. Daddy pays school fees, they say, and mummy sweeps. Daddy buys a car and mummy washes dishes. This negative mentality is planted in the minds of children who grow up believing that women are powerless and cannot be leaders.
Lately, technology is being used to harm women and girls. Negative messages, including nude pictures of women and girls that are circulated on social media lower their dignity. Some quit school and jobs.
What you can do
It is every one’s responsibility to respect women around them. Shouting at, beating, or demeaning their status is unacceptable. Instead, everyone should be fighting for women’s rights and freedom and empowerment and treating women with dignity. Women are not sex objects for promoting tourism.
A report from UWONET says that people need to start writing wills such that when they die their girl children and wives will not have to suffer the wrath of property grabbing from their relatives.