By Diana Kagere Mugerwa
On Monday, September 9, 2013, Uganda woke up to the gruesome murder of a nine year old Hanisha Nambi who was defiled, strangled and her lifeless body dumped in an abandoned house in Kawempe.
Nisha, as she was commonly known, is now the face of the increasing cases of rape and defilement for women and young girls that has shown steady growth, if the Police crime reports since 2011are accurate. This, therefore, calls for the need to address violence against women specifically sexual violence.
Indeed, sexual violence in terms of defilement and rape is unacceptably high in Uganda. Over 197 cases have been reported in the media between June and September 2013, and the annual Police crime report of 2011 shows that 7,690 cases of rape and defilement were reported, yet sexual violence remains the least reported crimes due to incidences of blaming victims and victimisation of survivors.
Many blame it on alcohol and drug use while others put the blame on women and young girls for being skimpily dressed or for walking alone at night.
But the use of sexual violence such as rape/defilement is a choice by the perpetrator and, therefore, the perpetrator should be held accountable to their actions rather than justify the actions. Justifying rape/defilement creates impunity, the reason as to why these vices continue to thrive.
Men are very sane beings with a conscious mind and, therefore, it is not fair to assume that they have the propensity to rape on the pretext that a woman or a girl is ‘skimpily’ dressed. The problem that needs to be addressed is rape/defilement because it is a crime and a clear violation of rights.
The stick that the Members of Parliament (MPs) should use is to ensure that the sexual offences Bill is passed and funded for implementation, because the Constitution protects everyone from such degrading treatment. The reason men rape women and girls are:
· Males wanting to dominate and control women’s bodies so no matter how they are dressed. That is why you see women dressed in gomesi or babies dressed in very long school uniforms and pumpers have often been raped;
· Expression of power through humiliation of the helpless persons at the time;
· No consequences for the offenders, that is, impunity and the other potential rapists are never deterred from doing so;
· Encouraging and re-enforcing remarks that sympathise with and justify the rapists actions cause an environment that tolerates the violence against women and girls;
· Humiliation and stigmatisation of the victim leads to silence on the part of the victim and most family members and, therefore, the offenders continue un abetted;
· Violence especially sexual violence thrives on silence.
There are many men who have not raped or defiled. Therefore, rape is not inevitable, but rather rape and other forms of men's violence are a result of learned attitudes and behaviours which are reinforced by a society that often defines manhood or masculinity through domination.
Thus the call to re-direct efforts to condemn acts of rape and other forms of sexual violence by taking action against offenders, promoting justice for the victims and provision of medical and psycho-socio services. As MPs and citizens, the empowering actions are:
· Demand MP to pass and supports the Sexual Offences Bill when brought to the floor of Parliament;
· The Government funds implementation of laws such as the Domestic Violence Act, Female Genital Mutilation Act and Trafficking in Persons Act that work towards preventing violence against women and girls;
· Publicly condemn rape and defilement and call upon the leaders, those affected and the public to break the silence.
· Follow up with law enforcers such as the Police and the judicial system to ensure they conduct timely investigations, adjudication and enforcement of court rulings in a manner that promotes survivors’ safety and perpetrator accountability.
The writer is the programme officer with the national advocacy, Center for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP)