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Over 80 spouses killed in 2008

By Vision Reporter

Added 3rd January 2009 03:00 AM

AT least 86 Ugandans were murdered by their spouses during 2008, according to serious crimes records at the Criminal Investigations Department. Western region leads with 33 spousal murders, followed by eastern with 17, Buganda 16, northern 10 and northeas

AT least 86 Ugandans were murdered by their spouses during 2008, according to serious crimes records at the Criminal Investigations Department. Western region leads with 33 spousal murders, followed by eastern with 17, Buganda 16, northern 10 and northeas

By Lydia Namubiru

AT least 86 Ugandans were murdered by their spouses during 2008, according to serious crimes records at the Criminal Investigations Department. Western region leads with 33 spousal murders, followed by eastern with 17, Buganda 16, northern 10 and northeastern 10.

September was the most dangerous month for spouses in Uganda. Sixteen cases of spouses killing their mates were recorded that month, which translates into one case every two days.
Suspicion of adultery domestic squabbles and drunkenness were the major causes of the murders, according to Police.
In 73 cases, the victims were wives. They were beaten, hacked or strangled to death. In 13 cases the victims were husbands, as was the case Mustafa Kassim and Sarah Naula on April 11.
In the heat of the argument, Naula allegedly darted into the house, got a panga and hacked him on the head. Mustafa died on the way to hospital.

Petty quarrels

Many of the murders were a result of domestic quarrels. For instance, on March 19, a couple in Abim had an argument about whether or not their son should share their bed. The man, Martin Lokiru was against the idea saying the boy kicks him at night. The wife, Gabriella Nakut, reasoned that they did not have beddings for the child so he had to sleep with them. The argument escalated into a fight and the even threatened to beat whoever tried to intervene. He allegedly beat her up severely, the child run to the neighbours and spent the night there. The next morning, Nakut was found dead. In another case, Juliano Ambayo and his wife Anzela Baako quarrelled over a glass of water and ended up fighting. He punched her unconscious and she died the next day.

Drunkenness was often a cause or catalyst for murder. For instance, on January 30, Beatrice Bwayirisa of  Sisiya, Sironko went home drunk after an evening in a  bar selling enguli, a local brew. When her husband Bernard Mafabi demanded to know where she had been, she said she had gone to use her ‘things’ to make money. The angry husband did not initially react but late that night, he allegedly strangled her in her sleep.

Adultery suspicion

Suspicion of adultery has also underpinned many of murders. Night Sarah of Koboko was allegedly beaten into a coma by her husband for refusing to tell him who had bought her beer earlier in the day. She died on July 21, at Global Clinic where the husband had belatedly taken her for treatment. Jane Abinyo also died on September 16, in Bubulo health centre a day after her husband William Ochike beat her on allegations of adultery. Peter Isingoma of Hoima in October allegedly hacked his wife Harriet Namusira to death on the same allegations.
In all but two cases, no guns were used. In the majority of the cases husbands, beat their wives to death. In a few others, spouses used household tools like knives and pangas as weapons or poisoned them especially in cases where the murderer was a woman. One Tororo wife, Mary Alukude was alleged to have hit her husband Constant Osile with a log and two stones. He died from the injuries.

In a few cases, the killer spouses also committed suicide afterwards. For instance, on September 12, Simeo Mbohera of Buhweju in Bushenyi murdered his 87-year-old wife, Donatira Kanihiro and then killed himself. Denis Tusasirwe of Itendero in the same district had in March also committed suicide after killing his wife Jonas Komugasho.

700,000 at risk

While spousal murder represents the deadliest form of violence among spouses, these numbers do not tell even half the story of spousal violence in Uganda. According to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) of 2006, spousal violence is the most common form of violence Ugandan women are subjected to. The survey found that 48% of women who were married have ever been physically assaulted by their partners. In fact, 35% said they had been assaulted in the 12 months before the survey.

On the flip side, about 20% of the men confessed to having been assaulted by their wives with 12% having suffered the assaults in the previous year. As for aggravated violence, 8% of women said their partners had threatened or attacked them with a weapon like a knife or gun while 6% of men from the same group had suffered the same fate.

Considering that 5% of women and 3% of men had suffered the aggravated attack or threat in the previous year, we can deduce that for every woman who was killed by her husband in 2008, there were over 700,000 others who suffered from spousal violence. And, for every husband killed, nearly half a million others could have died.

No surprises

Those who have studied domestic violence in Uganda would not be shocked that 86 Ugandans were killed by their spouses in 2008. “Through research, I know spousal violence is a reality,” says Lillian Tibatemwa, an associate professor of law at Makerere University, who has done extensive research into domestic violence.

Culprits speak out

In 2005/06, Tibatemwa interviewed domestic violence prisoners in Luzira and Masaka prisons. She found that suspicion of adultery was the most frequent reasons husbands gave for assaulting their wives. This, she says, can be explained in the context of Uganda’s patriarchal society. “With sexual prowess being seen as the measure of a real man, how is a woman’s adultery interpreted?” she asks. According to her, Ugandan men see their women’s adultery as a question on their masculinity, hence the violence.

Nevertheless, she believes that whatever reason one may give for assaulting their spouse is only a trigger. Paul Nyende, a lecturer of community psychologist at Makerere University, agrees. Nyende believes that spousal murders result from conflicts, catalysed by economic hardships. “Killing one’s spouse is most often not planned. It results from one’s failure to control anger,” Nyende asserts. He also blames the weakening of the extended family (which used to act as buffers) for the high levels of domestic violence.

Legal vacuum

This year, women’s rights activists lobbied for the enactment of a law against domestic violence.
However, Tibatemwa believes that while a law may curb spousal violence, the best solution would come from the community.
“When one is killed by their spouse, most likely this was not the first time they were being assaulted. So the question is how did the community react when they first witnessed the violence? Did they say she deserved for the particular mistake she had done or did they indicate in no uncertain terms that physical violence was unacceptable?” she asks.

Tolerance for wife beating

Unfortunately, Ugandans are permissive to spousal violence. According to the 2006 UDHS, 70% of women and 60% men believe that wife beating can be justifiable.

Ironically, wife beating seems more popular among women. More than half of women, precisely 56%, believe that a woman who neglects her children should be beaten while 52% says going out without informing one’s husband justifies his beating them. Thirty-one percent and 23% of women respectively feel that denying you husband sex and burning food are justifications for a beating.

The majority (60%) of men asked also found wife beating justifiable in at least one of the above circumstances. However, men with higher education and wealth tended to disagree with wife beating.

Will communities and policy makers join hands to stop murders and other forms of violence among families or will we be counting an even higher number next year? Only time will tell.

Over 80 spouses killed in 2008

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