By Farooq Kasule
The 2019 Police statistics show that every six hours a woman or girl is raped and every hour, a domestic violence case is reported.
The report indicates that whereas there was decrease in deﬁlement cases by 11.4% from 2018, a total of 13,682 children were deﬁled, the majority of whom were girls.
Despite the high numbers, less than half of the cases reported reach the Ofﬁce of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), who is mandated to prosecute the offenders for justice to prevail. Worse still, over 30% of the cases are usually dropped due to lack of evidence.
Speaking at a workshop at Mestil Hotel in Nsambya, Kampala, Justice Jane Frances Abodo, however, shifted the blame onto sloppy investigations. "Investigators need to be trained in how to recover exhibits in sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) cases. For example, if a woman is raped, an investigator should know how to handle knickers laced with sperm-like substance. They currently focus on the arrest of the suspects," Abodo noted.
Abodo says SGBV cases should be prosecuted in only six months, noting that victims are likely to lose interest if cases drag on. "If someone was deﬁled and the matter is heard after that person is married, do you think that person will show up for trial?" the DPP asked.
Abodo said her ofﬁce has since established a specialised team of prosecutors to work closely with the Police in handling SGBV-related cases in order to avoid miscarriage of justice.
"I think the Judiciary should also establish specialised courts for the same," Abodo said.
During the function, Principal Judge Dr Flavian Zeija commended the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Justice Law and Order Sector Secretariat (JLOS) for funding SGBV justice in the country. "In the third phase (of special court sessions on SGBV cases), we are targeting the completion of 700 cases. Each participating court is required to prepare a cause list of 50 cases for the session and conclude all of them within 45 days," the Principal Judge said.
Zeija, however, cautioned judges against dismissing cases in order to beat the deadline, saying SGBV cases are unique and require patience.