Government Not Helping Female Domestic Violence Victims
By Rodney Muhumuza
Kampala — Amnesty International will today release a report in which it will accuse authorities in Uganda of not supporting women seeking justice for sexual and domestic violence.
The new report, titled "I Can't Afford Justice - Violence against women in Uganda", will highlight Uganda's poor record by documenting the economic and social obstacles oppressed women face while pursuing justice. "Victims are left facing inadequate responses by [the] police, having to pay for the cost of police transportation to arrest the accused, forensic examination fees and other expenses related to the investigation," the rights watchdog said in a statement sent yesterday. "Some official responses to sexual violence also reflect a widely held attitude that the women are to blame for sexual violence in a country where the government often appears to promote 'preservation of the family unit' ahead of justice for victims."
Litany of accusations
The charges in the new report seem to dovetail with the account of the Uganda Police's annual crime report, in which it was noted that cases of death through domestic violence had risen to 165 in 2009, up from 137 in 2008.
The crime report, released last week in Kampala, did not specifically say if most of this violence was perpetrated against women. The Amnesty International report, which will feature accounts such as the testimony of a victim who was asked to buy fuel for the police, is expected to accuse government officials of discriminating against women. It will charge that violence against women remains "widespread" in Uganda. "Lack of government resources and political will mean that perpetrators rarely face justice. Women in Uganda have been left with no faith in the justice system," said Ms Widney Brown, a senior director of Amnesty International.
Jacqueline Asiimwe-Mwesige, an attorney with experience in women's issues, yesterday said Uganda still has a "long way to go" before the issues raised in the new report are erased. She cited the apparent poverty in rural police stations and the numerous resource challenges faced by investigators of such crimes, noting: "These are the people we depend on for justice."
Still, Ms Asiimwe-Mwesige said, there was progress over the years. "The police, despite their shortcomings, are always willing to help, to listen," she said. "And we now have a law that recognises domestic violence."
The Amnesty International report will highlight issues such as the violation of victims' privacy, the negative attitudes towards women, as well as the lack of the types of resources needed to press charges against offenders.