By Iyanu Muriel
On Saturday, Uganda joined the World to celebrate International Women’s Day. However, over time, violence against women has manifested itself in many different casings.
The recent public undressing of women in the city after the signing of the Anti Pornography Act show just how far some boisterous individuals can go. However, this is nothing compared to the plight of many women living upcountry.
Some critics confine violence against women to only physical violence like battery. However, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women widely defines violence against women to include, any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
Evidently, deprivation of land from women has the possibility of resulting into economic, physical, sexual and psychological harm. It also takes away her liberty and independence as her user rights over land in her home will be solely dependent on her relationship with her husband or father if not married.
The root of this vice is the gendered discrimination of land ownership, usually in preference for males in most Ugandan societies today. The perpetrators of land grabbing are usually the immediate relatives to the victims such as brothers, uncles and in-laws.
This has consequently kept them forever dependent on men who may not allocate them any land. Even when given access, the men dictate what to use the land for and the women simply provide free labour.
This lack of secure access to land, limited ownership of land and control over land has resulted in an ever increasing social inferiority and economically impoverished status of women.
There have been increased cases of rural urban migration which usually comes with prostitution, sexual harassment, domestic violence, marital instability, separation and divorce arising directly from land rights concerns.
In the economic perspective, women are the backbone to this country’s agriculture sector. Their landlessness results in limited agricultural activities as they are agriculturally more productive. Poor land systems mean a dilapidating economy, for instance, in Teso sub-region, where, according to UBOS’s population projection of 2012, women outnumber men (1,029,300 to 972,100). Therefore, solutions to poverty and underdevelopment depend on addressing the gender dimensions of land rights.
There are numerous cases of land grabbing mainly concerning customary land.
To address this looming trend, gender equity should be advocated. Equal rights and entitlements would lead to outcomes which are fair, just, and which enable women to have the same property rights as men especially concerning customary land.
Furthermore, Uganda should exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons.
The writer is a legal Assistant, Soroti Development Association and NGO’s Network.