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Congestion leads to marital violence in IDP camps

By Vision Reporter

Added 8th September 2007 03:00 AM

FOR women in internally displaced people’s camps, sex has become a nightmare. They have to choose between giving their husbands pleasure and protecting children from witnessing adult exploits. In almost all the IDP camps, congestion and lack of privacy is a common phenomenon, which also influences

FOR women in internally displaced people’s camps, sex has become a nightmare. They have to choose between giving their husbands pleasure and protecting children from witnessing adult exploits. In almost all the IDP camps, congestion and lack of privacy is a common phenomenon, which also influences

By Alice Emasu

FOR women in internally displaced people’s camps, sex has become a nightmare. They have to choose between giving their husbands pleasure and protecting children from witnessing adult exploits. In almost all the IDP camps, congestion and lack of privacy is a common phenomenon, which also influences the lifestyle of the people. It is common to find a family of 10 people living in a tiny hut.

While the women want to abstain from sex, fearing to be heard by their children, the men insist on it, especially after taking alcohol.

For Hellen, a resident of Olilim sub-county in Otuke, the painful experience is still fresh in her mind. She was battered by her husband three times in one month for allegedly denying him sex. Hellen admitted that she had declined to sleep with him because of the congestion. However, when she reported the incident to Omoro Police, her husband said she had no right to deny him his conjugal rights.

Mary Akao, the police officer for Omoro police post in Lira district, says whenever a case of assault or wife-battering was brought to her, the main reason the man gave was that his wife denied him his conjugal rights. Most women who reported cases of domestic fights, she said, ended up being raped and beaten, or separated from their spouses.

In a survey of 65 women in six camps, Saturday Vision, found that 23% of them had divorced or separated from their husbands because of such tortuous sexual relationships. Two thirds of them confessed to denying their husbands sex due to congestion.

“Most women refuse to have sex with their spouses because they want to have sex at the wrong time, when the children are still awake, or because they have become womanisers, and the women fear contracting the HIV/AIDS,” said Akao.

The men insist that the desire to have sex is natural and believe that their wives deny them sex because they have other men.

On the other hand, most women say they value their self-respect more than fulfilling their husbands’ desires. They strongly feel it is improper to have sex just metres away from their children. Instead they would prefer to have sex in the bush. Indeed, local council leaders confirmed that often couples are caught having sex in the bush.

While some men decide to get another wife as a solution, others beat their wives into submission, or enter extra-marital affairs. Nancy Akuno, a member of the National Association of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, fears that this situation is fueling the spread of HIV/AIDS, in addition to breaking marriages.

IDP families, she says, need separate rooms for the children. However, this is not possible due to lack of building materials.

Ario Eromolina, a camp leader in Erute Sub-county, says even after the children have fallen asleep, most women say they cannot enjoy sex for fear that they might wake up.

“The funny thing about our children now is that they pretend to be asleep when they are awake, listening and watching with one
eye,” she noted.

David Ogwang, another camp leader in Lira, said some children practise what they see and hear their parents do in the huts. “Children, as young as five years, are engaging in sex after watching their parents,” he said.

At Erute camp, a story is told of how a five-year-old boy nicknamed ‘Ababa icamo ngo,’ amused the IDPs when he demanded to know what his father was ‘eating’ at night when the children were sleeping hungry. The boy caused big embarrassment to his mother. The story has been circulating in the camps, and now peer leaders use it to teach parents to be careful while having sex in the huts at night. “It is a serious matter,” says Ogwang.

The Resident District Commissioner for Lira, Joan Amuge, said she had also received reports of violence and separation resulting from denial of sex in the camps. She said the IPDs spend much of their time drinking alcohol due to idleness. “As a result many families have collapsed over simple
issues,” she says.

As the IDPs begin to return home, says Amuge, they should be counselled in an attempt to mitigate the impact of sexual problems in the camps.

The camps were created as a buffer against LRA rebels who often committed atrocities against civilians. The latest round of talks between the rebels and the Government in the southern Sudanese town of Juba has renewed hope of a peaceful settlement of the conflict and encouraged many IDPs to go home. However, the returnees face many challenges, including how to help children live outside camps.

Ruth Matoya, a lecturer of counselling at Bugema University, called for the immediate rehabilitation of the children who have been exposed to the sexual acts in the camps to help them change their sexual perceptions and behaviour. Without the rehabilitation, she added, the effects would continue to affect them even when the families leave the camps.

Matoya says children aged seven and above often get traumatised when they see adults engaging in sex. “A one-and-a-half year old, if exposed to sex more than once, would want to try out what they have seen because they see it as a normal practice.

However, if the experience is kept away from them after they make five years old, they forget about it only to remember it when they are 10 years, says Matoya who works with Health Talk Counselling Services.

“Children aged 10 years and above,” says Matoya, “can idealise or detest earlier experience of sexual exposure depending on the influence that the source of the exposure has on them.”

Congestion leads to marital violence in IDP camps

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