By Carol Natukunda
A look at the rising statistics shows that not enough is being done to protect women against domestic violence. In some parts of the country, especially rural Uganda, women are made to believe that it is right for their men to batter them.
The educated and enlightened have not been spared either. Many suffer abuse behind closed doors but will not talk about it. Abuses are both physical and psychological. Weak laws and poor implementation have not helped matters...
Former Vice President Specioza Wandera Kazibwe raised eyebrows when she revealed that she had suffered domestic violence at the hands of her husband. That women are battered is an open secret.
Police records show that cases of domestic violence have been on the rise in Uganda: 156 in 2008, 185 in 2009 and 276 in 2010.
More than two thirds of Ugandan women experience violence from their partners according to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2006. The report discovered that 68% had been harassed or beaten by their partners during the 12 months preceding the survey. This included: beating, pushing, dragging, forced sex, arm twisting, threatening, insulting and choking.
Rural women suffered more violence than urban women. Likewise, uneducated women suffered more than their educated colleagues.
The survey also shows that seven in 10 women agree that it is justified for women to be beaten by their husbands when they make certain mistakes. This indicates that women in Uganda generally accept violence, since traditionally, a woman must be submissive to her husband.
The most accepted reasons for wife battery, according to the report, are neglecting children (56%) and going out without informing the husband (52%). Acceptance of wife beating was found to be common in the rural areas, while in the urban areas, women were generally against it. According to sociologists, it begins with dependence on a man.
“When he is the one providing everything, you barely have a say on anything. And a no to anything means a slap, or two,” says Laura Aryijuka, a sociologist and counsellor at Kyambogo University.
“Sometimes the man comes home drunk. Should the woman comment about it, or refuses sex, then she is in for a beating. And many women fear to move on, because society does not approve of it,” she adds.
Tina Musuya, the director Center for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP), says cases of domestic violence take a long time to investigate. She adds that in some communities, people are not even aware that it is a crime so the vice goes unreported.
“It is of concern that domestic violence continues to happen with impunity, yet there is a domestic violence act that would be an answer to the silent victims if implemented,” said Musuya.
In 2010, Parliament approved the Domestic Violence Act, which aims at punishing perpetrators of domestic violence, as well as protection of victims of domestic violence.
Musuya urges all government sectors to prioritise implementation of the Domestic Violence Act through allocation of funds towards activities in fighting the vice.
A study conducted by CEDOVIP shows that individuals spend about sh15bn annually to pay for health services for treatment of injuries sustained during the fracas. The information was collected from 217 health care providers across the country.
Margaret Namusisi, 25, a resident of Iganga moved in with her husband when she was 14 and he was 40. She explained why she continued to have unprotected sex with him despite her desire to stop having children:
“There are times when I don’t feel like having sex, other times I tell him to use a condom but he doesn’t want to. That causes disputes. He accuses me of having other men. He goes away and doesn’t provide for us.
So I have sex with him so that he can look after the children and does not beat me,” Namusisi,told Human Rights Watch in one interview.
According to the demographic survey, domestic violence is highest in the Eastern and Central districts of Bugiri, Busia, Iganga, Namutumba, Jinja, Kamuli, Kaliro and Mayuge.
“In such communities, men believe you are not a man, if you don’t beat your woman,” observes Aryijuka.
Musuya calls for sensitisation on the domestic violence bill. If passed, complaints will be made to the Police and local council courts.
Cases will then be tried by the Local Councils, the magistrates’ courts or family and children courts, depending on the magnitude of the offence. Previously, such matters were referred to clan heads or the local council.
He even killed our three children?
By Luke Kagiri
It was a joyful moment when Nalongo Florence Nabateregga, 35, returned home.
Nalongo’s journey from Entebbe, where she has been living with relatives since she was discharged from hospital four months earlier, ended with a boda boda ride of about 35 kilometers.
Nalongo with children after she returned
“There are no taxis going home, and I feel, I must go now. I am getting used to travelling on a bike, I will reach safely,” she said as she left Mityana town for her village.
Less than one hour later, she arrived home. Her five children and several neighbours gathered for an emotional welcome. “We thank God that you are here again and alive,” said Frank Kikaawa, 15, one of her eldest sons.
The rest of the children burst into tears. But Nalongo put on a brave face and calmed down her children. “We should be happy that I am back and alive. I am so happy that I am at my home once again, and that I have found some of my children alive,” she says.
It had been exactly six months since her husband gruesomely attacked her home, leaving some of her children dead and both her hands cut off.
On the fateful day, Wednesday 22nd February, 2012, Nalongo’s husband, Bbanda, returned home at about 9:00pm. He appeared drunk.
“As he entered the house, he picked a machete and just started hacking us. He killed two children on spot and chopped off my hands. I was then admitted in Mityana with one of my children who had survived with injuries. They immediate referred us to Mulago, where my child died a day after. I was in hospital for over two months,” she narrates.
The deceased included one-year old twins, Babirye Nalukwago and Justine Nakato, and four-year old Kigongo Naluwagga.
Two days later, relatives of her attacker gathered and buried the three children.
On the same day, Bbanda, who had been hiding for two days was also arrested. He was later charged with murder and remanded to Ssaza prison for one year.
When Nalongo dropped out of school in Primary Five at the age of 14, the only main activities were to participate in the church choir and farming. A year later, fellow Christians from her church persuaded her to marry Bbanda.
Twenty years later, with nine children between them, Nalongo would suffer the tragedy that has left her limbless. Bbanda had accused Nalongo of having extra-marital affairs. Nalongo insists she has never been intimate with any other man. In the village, it is believed that Bbanda acted under the influence of some evil spirits.
“In 2006, he started troubling me. He brought another woman into my house. We shared the house for over two years and then she went away. Later I also left him.”
Desperate to get back his wealth and wife, Bbanda is said to have sought the help of a witchdoctor, who performed a ritual and gave him some charms to take home. However, he failed to pay the witchdoctor’s debt.
“I am informed that the healer asked for sh3m, out of which he was paid shs100,000, so the witchdoctor got annoyed and turned the evil spirits against him.”
Nalongo says Bbanda’s relatives performed rituals to cleanse him of these spirits but failed.
A number of religious people also believe that evil spirits are in the home. Soon after Nalongo was discharged from hospital, while recuperating at a relative’s home in Entebbe, she met a pastor who asked for sh400,000 to drive out the evil spirits.
“We paid him but the work was not fully done,” Nalongo says.
Today, Nalongo lives in poverty. When Sunday Vision visited, she had only a mat, where one to three visitors can sit at a time. If she gets more than three visitors, the rest have to remain standing. She has only one saucepan for cooking. With no hands, she wonders how she is going to look after her four children and pay their school fees.
“I am now helpless and these children are helping me to eat, bathe and do everything. I appeal for anybody to come to my aid,” she pleads.
Despite such challenges, she is positive about her return home. “I feel brave and determined to live with my children here but I always get the bad memories of what happened to me,” she says.
Bbanda’s relatives keep asking her to forgive him so he can get out of prison sooner or get a lighter sentence.
“I may forgive him, but what about my children he killed? He must be punished. I do not have any problems with him, but I only fear that if he is released, I would not know how to face him. I can’t live in the same village as him, yet I do not have anywhere else to go,” Nalongo says.