Police and prosecutors should take a much more aggressive position in arresting and prosecuting domestic violence offenders.
By Richard Musaazi
Uganda police should treat domestic perpetrators as seriously as terrorists and murderers. Everyone has a right to a peaceful existence. This includes basic personal freedoms, alleviation of suffering, and the opportunity to lead a productive and normal life.
According to Action For Development (ACFODE), a women’s non-governmental organization, “The rate at which domestic violence is occurring in our communities is indeed alarming and needs to be checked. There are so many people out there who are suffering in silence in thousands of domestic relationships.”
The term “domestic violence” covers any form of abusive behaviour or acts that are perpetrated by one person against another within a relationship. This includes relationships such as marriages, families or cohabitating couples. The ultimate goal of a perpetrator of domestic violence is to gain, maintain and control the life of the other person.
It is my view that the consequences of domestic violence are the same as terrorism. We have death. We have severe trauma. We have significant injury and people are impacted for the rest of their lives.
As the gatekeepers of the justice system, Uganda’s police are critical in helping to shape the community’s understanding of crime. If the police do not treat a crime or threat seriously, it is most likely that the public won’t either.
Domestic violence is a criminal offence under the laws of Uganda. The Domestic Violence Act of 2007 was promulgated to protect all people. However, it was predominantly for women, against any form of abuse, and to punish offenders of this terrible crime which inflicted pain and suffering to victims.
In other words, if you are a victim of domestic violence, you don't have to stay silent. You have the right to report the conduct of your abuser to the police who will arrest the perpetrator for prosecution. This will allow you to live in dignity.
Domestic violence is not limited only to women; almost anyone can be a victim. It can happen to people regardless of age, race, religion or gender. The effects of domestic abuse have always been pain and suffering. Some victims have described their situation as hellish. Under such circumstances, they cannot develop to become their very best. This can undermine their ability to make meaningful contributions to the growth and development of their communities.
Note: There are many different forms of domestic violence. However, only those recognised by the Domestic Violence Act are given treatment here.
This is one of the most common forms of domestic violence. It includes beating, pushing, shoving, hitting, confinement, or denying the victim the basic necessities of life. This can include shelter, water, food, clothing and medical care among others. Physical abuse sometimes results into crucial bodily harm such as deep cuts or severe burns. Some of the more serious injuries may result in lengthy hospitalisation for the management of a person’s health conditions.
For those households that have a “house help”, it is a form of physical abuse to confine these individuals within the home. House helps’ rights must be upheld so they can live in dignity. House helps can report your abusive conduct to the police for the law to take its course.
When a perpetrator forces a person to engage in sex or any sexual activity without that person's consent, it is sexual abuse. If an individual has an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) such as HIV/AIDS, syphilis, gonococcus infection, and deliberately have sex with another person without disclosing this fact to them, it constitutes sexual abuse. It is a serious crime. It is also sexual abuse if an individual has sex with a person who is unable to decline or refuse because of physical or mental difficulties.
Psychological abuse refers to any pattern of behaviour that makes the victim feel humiliated, dehumanized, ridiculed and worthless. This includes insults, name-calling, screaming and saying nasty things about somebody with the intent of making the victim feel worthless.
This form of domestic violence is also very common in certain domestic relationships. Economic abuse takes place when one person denies another person access to economic resources such as money and properties. Some men, for instance, may force their wives into a state of subservience by refusing to allow them to work. Without economic resources, the person who is affected becomes powerless and virtually has no say when it comes to decision making.
This kind of abuse occurs when an individual behaves in an unpleasant or threatening way towards another person. It includes sexual harassment such as touching or fondling.
Harassing behaviour may also include sending letters, emails, text messages and making phone calls to annoy and make life unbearable for another person. The crusade against domestic violence must continue until it is completely uprooted from our society.
Patty Rase Hopson speaks on behalf of all victims by saying that, “Abuse changes your life. Fight back and change the life of your abusers by breaking your silence on abuse.”
It is crucial that victims are empowered to report their abusers to the police. In supporting this call to action, I conclude with a quote from the Domestic Violence Act 2007. “A victim of domestic violence need not suffer in silence but can now confidently seek help in court and hopefully live his/her life in peace and in dignity. An offender, on the other hand, will be exposed and be made to face the full rigours of the law. Additionally, he /she will be ordered to obey the Protection Orders granted in favour of the victim.”
No matter what form it takes, domestic violence in relationships and society is unacceptable. Charles Clarke once wrote, “We can all take responsibility for helping to bring about change, and keeping our friends and colleagues safe from domestic violence.”
Police and prosecutors should take a much more aggressive position in arresting and prosecuting domestic violence offenders. Also, politicians should be pressured into believing that arguments resulting in physical torture are enough for the police and the prosecutor to charge you with a crime.
Domestic violence should be investigated as a major crime by specialised units. Priorities should target repeat offenders and work to predict violence and intervene before women and children are injured or killed.
The writer is a private investigator based in UK