10 December 2019
FIDA UGANDA’S STATEMENT ON HUMAN RIGHTS DAY:
ORANGE THE WORLD: PRIORITZE EFFORTS TO END GBV IN UGANDA
Today 10 December 2019, The Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA Uganda) joins the international community to celebrate Human Rights Day that symbolizes the end of the16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence that began on 25 November 2019, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Gender based violence is any act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and is based on gender norms and unequal power relationships. It encompasses threats of violence and coercion. It can be physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual in nature, and can take the form of a denial of resources or access to services.
The Uganda’s Demographic Health Survey (DHS) 2016 shows that 56 percent of ever-married women have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence by their current or most recent spouse/partner and that 22 percent of women and 8 percent of men have ever experienced sexual violence. FIDA Uganda through its work has found that high rates of GBV and a culture of impunity for GBV persists because GBV survivors face hurdles accessing help for abuse; GBV survivors often face reprisals for reporting incidents to the police; GBV survivors are often pressured to solve the abuses internally, or are often forced to remain silent and not report abuse, and that many survivors withdraw and do not follow up with cases of GBV reported to the police;
Recognizing the continued high rates of GBV in Uganda mainly perpetrated against women and the high costs and impacts of GBV in Uganda, as part of its Orange campaign during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, FIDA Uganda took the lead together with its partners, such as UNWOMEN; HIVOS; FOKUS; SIHA; and HIVOS to provide access to justice to survivors of GBV, educate the public; school students; prisoners; communities; and relevant stakeholders, such as prison officials, teachers, and the police on different forms of GBV, including rape; domestic violence; sexual harassment; and economic violence; and new forms of internet related GBV, mainly targeted against women and girls.
Recognizing the efforts of the Government of Uganda in addressing GBV, including passing the Domestic Violence Act, 2010, this Human Rights Day presents an opportunity for the Government and relevant stakeholders to renew and strengthen efforts to prioritize ending GBV whose costs and impacts have far-reaching consequences on Uganda’s ability to achieve inclusive sustainable economic development, achieve gender equality, and women empowerment.
As the women’s rights organization in Uganda spearheading the promotion of women’s rights in Uganda and improving access to justice through provision of legal aid services to survivors of GBV, FIDA Uganda calls on the government of Uganda and relevant stakeholders to:
(i) Ensure that police officers and other professionals handling cases of violence against women receive specialized training on how to effectively respond to survivors of violence, including female survivors of internet violence.
(ii) Establish state-run shelters to provide protection, secure accommodation, and support services to survivors of violence.
(iii) Strengthen efforts to establish specialized courts specifically to prosecute GBV cases and remove social barriers that discourage survivors of GBV from reporting abuse to the police or other justice actors.
(iv) For internet related forms of violence against women, work with internet companies to develop quick response protocols.
(v) Prioritize gender-responsive budgeting aimed at addressing GBV and treat gender equality as a business issue as it has significant impacts on the country’s ability to achieve economic development.
(vi) Effectively train relevant stakeholders, such as officials from the Equal Opportunities Commission to effectively handle GBV.
(vii) Introduce a school club curriculum that deconstructs cultural norms and encourages positive masculinity.
(viii) Track the impacts of government programs on promoting gender equality and women empowerment.
(ix) Effectively empower and support non-formal justice mechanisms that are usually the first points of entry to handle cases of GBV in communities.
(x) Update legislation and policies to address the gaps that undermine the ability of survivors of violence to access justice and seek legal redress and strengthen efforts to ensure survivors of GBV have access to support services, including psychosocial support, medical services, and shelters.
(xi) Intentionally involve men in GBV preventive programs to create male champions who advocate against GBV and encourage positive masculinity.
As FIDA Uganda continues to work with the government and relevant stakeholders to strengthen access to justice for survivors of GBV and support survivors of GBV, we hope these recommendations will be taken up so that during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence next year, women and girls in Uganda will have a reason to celebrate.