SPECIAL PROJECTS
 
2nd December 2004.
ACT NOW: Say no to Violence Against Women

By Muwanga Susan Nassuna & Margaret Oguli Oumo

"Women's empowerment and their full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society, including participation in the decision-making process and access to power, are fundamental for the advancement of equality, development and peace."

Violence Against Women (VAW) is recognized internationally as one of the critical areas of concern that impinge on women's empowerment and hence curtail their economic and social progress.

The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action (1995) describes
VAW as any act of gender-based violence that results in. or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women- including threats of such acts- coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.

VAW is one of the social mechanisms by which women and girls are forced into a subordinate position compared to that of men and boys and it encompasses but is not limited to the following:

- Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, Female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation.

- Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including intimidation at work and other institutions as well as trafficking in women and forced prostitution.

- Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetuated or condoned by the state, wherever it occurs.
Up-date on VAW in Uganda

In Uganda media reports and various studies show that VAW and especially domestic violence against women and children is rampant and is on the increase.

According to a study carried out in two districts in Uganda in 1997, among women aged 20-44 years and their partners, 41% the women reported being beaten or physically harmed by a partner, while 41% of the men reported beating a partner.

The Ugandan communities, through the Uganda Participatory Poverty Assessment Process (UPPAP), have repeatedly identified domestic violence as one of the concerns that escalates poverty among individuals, families, communities and the entire nation.

Among reported cases recorded at the Central Police Station, Kampala in 2002, defilement cases were 10, rape 1, indecent assault 5, domestic violence 95, trafficking 2 and threatening violence 6.

Common forms of Violence Against Women and Girls in Uganda include wife battering and assault, rape, incest, child abuse, sexual abuse, forced marriages- ritual murder, female genital mutilation, denial of certain foods, child assault [by teachers), discrimination in education and health, inheritance of widows, defilement, desertion by spouse, denial of control over resources and proceeds among others

Causes of VAW
Causes of VAW include among others the unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women. VAW emanates from acts of extremism linked to sex, cultural practices, race and or religious practices that perpetuate the lower status accorded to women in the family, the workplace and the wider community.

Silence about incidents of VAW and the girl child has compounded the problem further. Silence about violence avails the perpetrators opportunity to continue with the habit and or even identify new victims.

Women's lack of access lo legal information- or protection, coupled with inadequate efforts on the part of public authorities to promote awareness and to enforce existing laws.
Images and information in the media and on the internet that depict women and girls as sex objects contribute to the continued prevalence of violence against women. This is so, especially among children and young people.

Other factors that perpetuate VAW include drug abuse, excess use of alcohol, loss of jobs/unemployment, loveless marriages, eroded extended family support systems, mental illness and poverty.

Effects of VAW

Acts or threats of violence whether occurring within the home or in the community- or perpetuated or condoned by those in power, instill fear and insecurity in women's lives and are therefore obstacles to the achievement of equality, development and peace.

The fear of violence, including harassment, is a constraint on the mobility of women and limits their access to resources and basic activities. It affects women's everyday lives, affecting their ability to participate in development projects, to exercise democracy and to engage fully in society.

It limits women's choices directly by destroying their health, disrupting their lives, constricting the scope of their activities and indirectly eroding their sell-confidence and self-esteem.

It is a barrier to cultivation of respect for human rights and the achievement of sustainable human development. Violence against women and girls is associated with high social, health and economic costs to individuals, families, communities and the society in general.

Specifically, the effects of violence against women and girls in Uganda include:

- High health costs in terms of treatment, management of STIs, including HIV/AIDS.

- Economic implications including reduction in economic activities due to
sickness and attending to the sick, getting treatment and sick leave,
- Hopelessness, lack of self-esteem and isolation of women and girls.
Action by Government
To address the challenge of violence against women, government has put in place the following measures:
• The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (1995) is gender sensitive Specific provisions in the constitution include the right to life, protection from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,

• In 1985, Government ratified the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. Uganda presented the third country status report to the CEDAW committee in 2002.

• Government has ratified the optional protocols to the Conventions on the rights of children, on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Institutions /structures
• The Human Rights Commission was put in place.
• Establishment of the Family Protection Unit in all Police stations of the Uganda Police Force.

Policy measures
There is a National Gender policy, which is a basis for all policies to address gender issues in all sectors. The policy recognizes gender as a developmentconcept.

Programmes/Plans/Strategies
- Government has developed a Social Development Sector
Strategic Investment plan (SDIP). The plan promotes issues of social protection. Gender equality, equity, human rights, culture, decent work conditions and empowerment for different vulnerable groups.

The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development has developed a Community Mobilisation and Empowerment Strategy to facilitate the operationalisation of the SDIP.

- The National Action Plan on Women for Uganda (1999-2004). The plan recognizes decision-making as a critical area of concern. Under this programme, government is to pass laws, amend legislation and develop capacity of law enforcement officers to deal with issues of gender imbalances.

In 2002, government added an Addendum to the National
Action Plan on women on violence against women and peace building.

- In February 2002, government in conjunction with UNICEF
developed The National Strategy on Gender-Based Violence in Uganda. The actions in this strategy are meant to cover all the different aspects of Gender-based violence, addressing the different levels at which it occurs and the different ways in which it manifests.

Challenges
- Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the private as well as public sphere needs to become a public issue for concern, discussion and action.

- Keeping of records on reported violence incidents so that data and statistics on the victims and alleged offenders are disaggregated by sex and age categories,
- Clarity and harmonization of the concepts/understanding of violence against women.

- Lack of modern equipment to get specific evidence that would he used against the perpetrators.

Proposed actions by government and other actors

1. Increased training and awareness creation on violence against women.
2. Strengthening linkages, collaboration and networks with Civil Society
Organizations and the Private Sector especially in interventions, which
address violence against women.
3. Information Management including provision of information to victims of violence e.g. through Help lines, counseling centers. And also sharing, updating of information and disaggregating the data by sex and age.
4. Resource mobilization to support public and private interventions
addressing violence against women e.g building of shelters for abused women and girls.
5. Legislation /legal reform for redress c.g enacting appropriate legislation
to deal with various issues including the Domestic Relations Bill, laws to deal with male clients to prostitutes, pimps and traffickers,
6. Research and Dissemination including collecting data and compile statistics, especially concerning domestic violence, relating to the prevalence of different forms of violence against women.

Actors in the area of VAW
VAW and the girl child is an issue that transcends the ambit of a single sector. Concerted efforts are required from all actors including government institutions, development partners, Civil society organizations, the private sector, the media, traditional and cultural institutions as well as individual men and women.

Quick Facts & Figures:
Domestic and Intimate Violence
Domestic and intimate partner violence involves attacks against women in the home, within the family or within an intimate relationship. Women are subjected to physical assault such as punching, strangling, and burning in their homes. Available data further suggest that nearly one in four women may experience sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.

Data indicates that in no country in the world are women safe from this type of violence. Based on several surveys from around the world, half of the women who die from homicides are killed by their current or former husbands or partners.

Although a majority of countries now have legislation that addresses domestic violence, high levels of violence still persist. There is clearly a need for greater focus on implementation and enforcement of legislation, and an end to laws that emphasize family reunification over the rights of women and girls.

This supplement is a cooperative effort in international journalism. It was produced through the Women's Edition project, which aims to enhance coverage of women's health issues around the world.

Women's Edition is run by an editorial board of 12 senior-level women journalists in the print and broadcast media in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. It is coordinated by the Washington, D.C.-based Population Reference Bureau (PRB), a leader in providing timely and objective information on U.S. and international population trends and their implications. The United States Agency for International Development funds the project.

The editors collaborate to write special features that offer both a global and local perspective on women's health issues. The global overview of the selected topic is written by staff at PRB and does not necessarily reflect the individual viewpoint of any of the undersigned editors. The local perspective of the topic is provided individually by each Women's Edition journalist and is unique to each publication. The following editors meet twice a year to be briefed on the upcoming issues and to exchange ideas and information.

Mohuya Chaudhuri
New Delhi Television, India

Adina Mihaela Cojocaru
MAMI magazine, Romania

Stella Ruth Gonzales-Perez
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippines

Victoria Ibanga
Champion Newspapers, Nigeria

Asha Krishnakumar
Frontline magazine, India

Ropa Mapimhidze
The Herald, Zimbabwe

Marycelina Masha
The Guardian, Tanzania
Indi Mclymont-Lafayette
All Woman magazine, The Daily Observer, Jamaica

Miriam Ruiz Mendoza
CIMAC News Agency, Radio Formula/IMER, Mexico

Lucy Oriang'
Daily Nation, Kenya

Munni Saha
ATN Bangla Television Channel, Bangladesh

Nabusayi Lindah Wamboka
The Weekly Observer, Uganda