Domestic violence free community (Assured of a brighter tomorrow)
Domestic violence and gender equality in Uganda
Violence against women in Uganda is predominantly domestic and it is referred to as domestic violence and is at epidemic level worldwide. Research in Uganda shows that 30% of women, one of every three is a victim of physical or sexual domestic violence at least once in their life time.
Domestic violence happens for complex reasons and no theoretical explanation is usually sufficient to account for it in a particular situation. Many people in Africa live in communities where women are taken as inferior and the men believe that they have right to control, punish and discipline the women. In some societies, girl children do the house chores while the boy children are rewarded with relation. This alone demonstrates how boy children can turn into men that exhibit controlling and forceful behaviour. Culture and tradition contribute by permitting abuse to continue without resistance or objection. It is argued that the imbalance of power between men and women is root cause of domestic violence.
Poverty is key in dictating life in sub Saharan Africa where Uganda is located. Men can often get angry at their spouses when asked to take up their responsibilities at home. In the name of avoiding this, men are known to turn anger to the other family members.
Facts about gender-based violence in Uganda
Violence against women is on the increase in Uganda despite the presence of laws and policies to protect victims and survivors.
According to the Uganda Police Force’s annual crime report, gender-based violence cases that were reported and investigated increased by 4% (from 38,651 to 40,258 cases) between 2018 and 2019.
The 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey revealed that up to 22% of women aged 15 to 49 in the country had experienced some form of sexual violence. The report also revealed that annually, 13% of women aged 15 to 49 report experiencing sexual violence. This translates to more than 1 million women exposed to sexual violence every year in Uganda.
Violence against women has recently taken new, more sophisticated forms. An increasing number of women are, for instance, reporting cyber-bullying and abuse through social media and smartphones.
- Immediate injuries such as fractures, haemorrhaging and long-term physical conditions
- Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety post-traumatic stress disorder and attempted suicide.
- Sexual and reproductive health problems, such as sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, and other chronical conditions.
- Poor social functioning skill and social isolation and marginalization
- Death for both women and their children from neglect pregnancy related risks
- Domestic and family violence tears lives apart. One in 3 women experience physical, sexual violence or both, caused by someone known to them.
- It affects women, children, the family and the community. And it has big personal, social and economic effects.
Effects on the victim
- Death, illness, injury and disability — domestic and family violence is the leading cause of death, illness and disability for women aged under 45
- Emotional and psychological trauma — the devastating impact on an individual’s physical, mental and emotional health including depression, shame, anger and suicide
- Use of alcohol and other drugs to deal with the pain
- Physical health injuries and problems, which may not get medically treated
Effects on the family
- Violence and the threat of violence at home creates fear and can destroy family environments and lead to the break-up of families
- Frequent moving to avoid the abuser
- Regular household conflict
- Child protection or police involvement
Effects on the community
- Children growing up without learning about positive and respectful relationships
- Abusers going to prison
- Higher rates of alcohol and other drug use, and mental health problems
- Domestic and family violence is estimated to cost the NSW economy more than $4.5 billion each year
Effects on children
Those of women who experience violence, more than 50% have children in their care. Children and young people should not be exposed to any form of violence. Studies show that living with domestic violence can cause physical and emotional harm to children and young people in the following ways:
- Ongoing anxiety and depression
- Emotional distress
- Eating and sleeping disorders
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach aches
- Stress build ups
- Low self-esteem
- Living with guilt or internalising pain and blaming themselves for the violence caused
- Have trouble forming positive relationships
- Develop phobias and insomnia
- Anxiety build ups so struggle to go to school or engage in studies
- Use bullying behaviour or become a target of bullying
- Difficulty concentrating
- Find it hard to solve problems
- Have less empathy and caring for others
- Children and young people need to grow up in a secure and nurturing environment. Where domestic or family violence exists, the home is not safe or secure and children become victim to long-term damage.
Strategies to curb gender based violence
These are the right strategies. But, how do we get there? If I had a limitless amount of money to create and implement my own agenda, we would possibly focus on five key areas:
- Funding women’s full participation in civil society. Women who are active in civil society can be highly effective in influencing global, regional and national treaties, agreements and laws and in exerting pressure to ensure their implementation. More money needs to flow toward supporting women’s active participation in civil society.
- Scaling up prevention efforts that address unequal gender power relations as a root cause of gender-based violence. Some programs have effectively structured participatory activities that guide the examination of gender norms and their relationship to power inequities, violence and other harmful behaviours. They work with multiple stakeholders across the socio-ecological spectrum and across multiple sectors. But we need to do a better job of evaluating these programs so we can move them from limited, small-scale pilots to larger-scale, societal-change programs.
- Bringing gender-based violence clinical services to lower-level health facilities. The provision of gender-based violence clinical services has focused on “one-stop shops” at high-level facilities, such as hospitals, where all services are offered in one place. However, the majority of people who access services at high-level facilities do so too late to receive key interventions, such as emergency contraception and HIV post-exposure prophylaxis. For faster access, we should focus on bringing services closer to the community, particularly in rural areas.
- Addressing the needs of child survivors, including interventions to disrupt the gender-based violence cycle. In shelters and services for women, it is common to see children of all ages in waiting rooms or safe houses. But, it is rare to see anyone working with these children, who have experienced a traumatic event. Sometimes they are victims, but most likely they are witnesses to violence against their mothers. We lack trained professionals to work with children who have experienced gender-based violence, especially when the perpetrators are parents or other family members.
- Integrate GBV risk mitigation and prevention into the development response to forced displacement. Measures could include grievance redress mechanisms, guidance, and tools to train local project stakeholders on GBV and violence against children risk assessment and mitigation.
- Strengthen and enhance multispectral services, including district- and local-level structures. Bolster the case management capacity of GBV and child protection actors through systematic training and mentorship; improve facilities and logistical resources; and strengthen coordination and referral mechanisms, including local leaders and refugee welfare committees.
- Scale-up evidence-based community violence prevention approaches to address GBV and violence against children risk factors aligned to district and community structures. Focus prevention efforts on changing social norms that underpin violence against children and GBV, support economic empowerment for women and adolescent girls, and preventing violence against children at school, including school clubs, gender-differentiated sanitary facilities, and peer-to-peer learning.
- Break conceptual “silent spaces” across GBV and child protection programming by, for example, training service providers to address multiple forms of violence and expanding existing programs to address common risks factors.
- Bridge the humanitarian-development divide between GBV and child protection programming. In line with the 2017 Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), reduce the gap between the humanitarian and development responses to GBV- and violence against children -related risks by deliberately aligning violence prevention and response interventions with national systems.
Youth link network is part of this journey to create health communities free from domestic violence. It doesn’t take a single night to curb this but continuous and frequent support can create a big change.