Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Operators of an online platform SafePal where persons who are sexually violated can report anonymously and be linked to support service providers report having an abrupt surge in the number of cases over the last two weeks.
SafePal’s Community Linkage Officer Emmanuel Kateregga told Uganda Radio Network this morning that while the app has not been very popular recording about five reports per month, they started getting a case every after two days, just days after the COVID-19 lockdown.
The platform has been mainly accessible to those that are able to use online social network sites and Kateregga says the trend has quickly changed that people are now sending in alerts during day time than the wee hours of the night like it has been.
SafePal’s Advocacy Officer Monica Rachel Achen however notes that much as young people may have access to smartphones which they can use to report, this is mostly concentrated in urban settings which may not meet the realities of the young person in a rural or refugee settlement who doesn’t even own one.
In the lockdown period, she notes most of those that have reported are young girls being molested by their fathers, uncles and relatives they stay in the same household with. Previously these would be linked by Safepal to safe homes for rehabilitation or refugee as their cases are being handled by legal teams but these were closed in line with presidential directives of curbing spread of coronavirus disease.
Now, Primah Kwagala, a lawyer and rights activist recommends those victimized to be shifted to another relative’s household instead of being tormented to stay in the same vicinity as the offender.
Now is a tough time for sexual violence as well as other forms of gender-based violence as police which would under normal circumstances be the first point of solace has chosen to handle those cases by offering counselling in order to avoid overcrowding in police cells.
However even as the number of those reporting on is increasing as Safe Pal reports, they can’t be helped there neither as all interventions are postponed. Such cases can only be followed up after the lockdown which was extended by another 21 days by President Yoweri Museveni yesterday.