Children are being defiled mostly by parents, guardians, and teachers
Police is probing a case where a 13-year-old girl was allegedly defiled her father Joseph Senoga, in Namasawo village, Mpigi district. Police picked Senoga, 35, on allegations of aggravated defilement.
A detective privy to the probe said: "It is alleged that the suspect has been living with the daughter and another four-year-old girl since the wife died."
According to the Police, the victim told her grandmother that Senoga had had sexual intercourse with her on several occasions.
Subsequently, the grandmother reported the matter to local council authorities who alerted Police.
The Police has been left with a puzzle to fill after it emerged that children are being defiled mostly by parents, guardians, and teachers. The penalty for defilement if found guilty is life imprisonment.
A report seen by New Vision on sex gender-based violence (SGBV) indicates that a total of 6,888 children were defiled by end of June (2020), of whom, 6,805 were girls and 83 were boys compared to 7,216 cases reported in the same period in 2019.
Although the report recommends that government (Police) should recruit and train more personnel in the skill of handling persons with disabilities such as sign language experts and more probation officers to handle cases especially against children with disabilities - they still face a number of challenges.
These include the medical examination of victims of SGBV which are paid for especially in private clinics and yet the majority cannot afford and inadequate equipment to handle SGBV cases like sexual assault kits, audio, and video recorders to document evidence.
Others are inadequate transport facilities to access hard to reach areas which cannot be accessed by motor vehicles, data collection process and storage is majorly still manual leading to late reporting and proper record keeping, and compromise of cases between perpetrators and victims where they prefer to settle cases out of court leading to case dismissal in courts of law.
Experts speak out
The Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) SGBV boss, Superintendent of Police Rose Nalubega said conflicts and natural disasters create conditions where girls and boys are vulnerable.
According to Nalubega, SGBV can have severe and long-lasting consequences for survivors, their families, and societies.
"At the level of the survivor, immediate health consequences include reproductive health impacts, injury, and a myriad of other negative effects which may even lead to death," Nalubega observed.
Although cases had reduced compared to last years (A total of 7,216 cases were reported in the same period in 2019), Nalubega predicted to have great chances of cases going up due to the circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about which includes lockdown; "that involves people staying indoors more with perpetrators, having no income due to unemployment as well as children being exposed to violence due to closure of schools."
"This has brought about clashes and tension in households and thus creating fertile grounds for cases of SGBV," she added.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Sabiiti Muzeyi said gender-based violence remains one of the most notable human rights violations within all societies and needs to be tackled with the seriousness and the focus it deserves.
"Training and awareness remain a key tool. It is through training that you create disciples of good (when the cause is noble of course)," Sabiiti said.
He made the remarks last week at the launch of the training police officers and their families on gender-based violence and sexual reproductive health at the CID headquarters in Kibuli, Kampala.
According to Muzeyi, the Uganda Demographic Health Survey 2016 shows that women are more than twice as likely to have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives as men. A 2007 report by the MOH identified the most prevalent types of violence at the time as wife battering (30%), defilement (25%), rape (20%), marital rape (13%), and sexual exploitation (12%).
"One problem with statistics is that we talk about numbers and we forget that these are actually our children, sisters or brothers," Muzeyi said.
While quoting the CID boss Grace Akullo, statistics from Jan-June this year on victims of domestic violence in different age brackets (0-8 years (620) (9-14 years (1,446) & (14-17 years (6,882), Sabiiti said; "This gives us the possible reasons behind this crime and where we need to focus our efforts- drugs, alcoholism, the film industry, the internet, and cultural practices."
According to Sabiiti, Uganda has enacted sufficient laws (Penal Code Act, Domestic Violence Act, and Trafficking in Persons Act) to deal with sexual offences like rape, defilement, assault, grievous bodily harm, murders, etc.
Certain challenges remain in the implementation on account of a number of factors; the adversarial system which Uganda inherited from the common law of England is inherently problematic in terms of SGBV cases.
"It creates a very antagonistic environment where parties who have to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt fail to appreciate the fragile nature of SGBV victims or survivors. This factor has a huge bearing on the success of such cases. This is made worse by cultural aspects that affect the response to some questions. The courts do not usually take this into consideration," Muzeyi observed.
"There is no witness protection law. The lack of the law has an adverse impact on some victims of very serious SGBV cases who will fear to appear in court or even to aid police investigations because they fear stigmatization or even for their lives. If the environment was friendly, for example by keeping them in separate rooms or by not requiring the victims to appear in court in person, it would improve the quality of evidence. Technology through video-links can bridge this gap," he added.
He also revealed that Police is strengthening the forensic capabilities in dealing with investigations of SGBV related offences to improve the quality of evidence.