Gender Based Violence (GBV) is an umbrella term used to describe any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will on the basis of unequal relations between women and men, as well as through abuse of power.
According to the Director for Gender, Labor and Social Development, Ms. Jane Mpangi, GBV in particular, sexual and physical violence is widespread in Uganda and is mainly committed against women and girls
During a presentation titled “GENDER BASED VIOLENCE- Current Situation, Challenges and way forward”, at the recently concluded Religious leaders’ high level review meeting on HIV/AIDS, Gender-Based Violence and Maternal Mortality, Ms. Mpangi said that GBV has been increasingly recognized around the country as a grave challenge for public health, development and a violation of human rights.
In Uganda, she said, GBV perpetrated against women and girls is an extremely complex issue caused by societal, economic and cultural factors. It occurs in forms such as Physical Violence, Psychological/ Emotional Violence, Sexual Violence, Treatment of women as commodities (includes trafficking in women and girls for Sexual exploitation), Economic Violence and Harmful cultural practices e.g. FGM and early marriage.
According to Ms. Mpangi, currently, Gender Based Violence (GBV) is mainly as a result of power inequalities between men and women.
The Uganda Demographic Health Survey (UDHS) 2011, indicates that 56.1% of women and 55.4% of men aged between15-49 have experienced physical violence, while27.8% of women and 8.9% of men have experienced sexual violence.
Effects of GBV to families
GBV escalades the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STDs among the married and unmarried persons and it is a major obstacle to development, building of human capital and this affects productivity and economic growth.
According to Ms. Mpangi, it increases the vulnerability of women, leading to their impoverishment, their families, societies and hence nations.
“It undermines family stability, thus eroding the core of society and increasing the vulnerability of children,” She said. Ms. Mpangi added that GBV increase incidences of unwanted pregnancies, thus leading to interrupted schooling, street children and aggravated poverty.
GBV also puts strain and burden on the social services, especially health as well as legal services and children within violence-affected households may experience mental and behavioral disorders including depression, anxiety and may have poorer performance at schools
Challenges in addressing GBV
Despite the enactment of laws such as the Domestic Violence Act 2010 and its regulations 2011, the prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation act 2010 and its regulations 2011, Guidelines for the Establishment and Management of GBV shelters 2013, the National Referral Pathway Guide for Prevention and Response to Gender Based Violence Cases in Uganda 2013 and the Employment Act 2006 and Sexual Harassment Regulations 2012; amongst others, there are still challenges in addressing GBV in Uganda today.
Ugandan is characterized by strong patriarchal beliefs that value male supremacy and women’s subordination. There are many underlying social/ cultural issues in society that perpetuate violence against women and girls, discrimination and subordination.
The enforcement of the laws that fight against GBV in Uganda today is limited by structural and financial constraints. Dichotomy behaviors in public and private spheres where leaders and the general public fail to walk the talk, also frustrates the efforts to address GBV.
In order to create a lasting solution to GBV in Uganda, Ms. Mpangi suggested that there is need to strengthen coordination of GBV through a multi sectoral approach, and also strengthen partnership with Faith Based Organizations (FBOs).
“Government will put emphasis on up-scaling interventions for addressing GBV in all its forms and manifestations,” she said. Ms. Mpangi also stressed the need for building capacity of the duty bearers to be able to respond to GBV, undertaking the Uganda Demography Health Survey UDHS (2016) with a module on GBV to obtain data and information on prevalence rates, and up grading the National Gender Based Violence Database to capture case management and also roll out to all Local Governments in the Country.
The Inter Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) in partnership with the United Nations family in Uganda is organizing a high level review meeting of HIV/AIDS, maternal and reproductive health, and gender based violence prevention programmes for senior religious leaders in Uganda.
The two-day meeting which will take place on 1st and 2nd October at Hotel Africana in Kampala, will run under the theme “Re-engaging religious leaders to respond to HIV/AIDS, Maternal Health and Gender based Violence”
Expected to attend, are; religious leaders across the country, representatives from Ministry of Health, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Uganda AIDS commission, the Civil Society and AIDS and Health development partners.
The meeting will review the extent to which religious leaders and organizations have implemented key resolutions and commitments of the high-level advocacy meeting on HIV and AIDS, maternal health and gender-based violence for senior religious leaders in Uganda; which was held in April, 2010 in Entebbe.
In this meeting, IRCU, together with its member organizations will take stock of the achievement, challenges, lessons and best practices in the implementation of HIV/AIDS, maternal and reproductive health, and gender based violence prevention programmes.
In 2010, as Uganda organized to take on the final lap to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), IRCU with support from various partners including UN agencies organized a high level leadership conference on HIV/AIDS, maternal health and gender‐based violence that resulted in a set of commonly agreed resolutions.
The leaders identified their specific roles and responsibilities in programming for each of the thematic areas as well as roles of government and other partners. The resolutions at IRCU level were reinforced by commitments at institution level for some of the denominations taking into consideration respective social teachings and policies.
Some of the Organizations expected to make presentations at the meeting are; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Adolescent girl programming, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on early child marriage, World Vision is also expected to make a presentation on the implications of Sustainable Development Goals on Uganda, and the Vice chancellor of Uganda Christian University, Rev. Can. Dr. John Ssenyonyi will also present a paper on partnerships with religious institutions in development programming.
The Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC) will make a presentation on the current situation of HIV/AIDS in the country, challenges and way forward, the Director General of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Ruth Achieng will also present a paper on the current situation, challenges and way forward of maternal and child health in Uganda.
Other topics to be covered are; the current situation, challenges and way forward of gender-based violence in Uganda, and a recap of the 2010 meeting presented by the IRCU HIV/AIDS & Public health specialist, Charles Sewanja.