The Other Voice
Latest Edition of Other Voice more emphasis on the !6 Days Of Activism against GBV
Latest edition October edition
About The Other Voice
The Other Voice (TOV) is a four-page advocacy and lobbying newspaper for the attainment of a fair and a just society. It was started in 1998 as a response to the unfair and inadequate coverage of women issues and other marginalized groups in Uganda.
TOV’s vision is a nation of women, children and men making informed decisions for gender equality and social justice through interactive communication thus enhancing women’s status.
TOV is also an arrangement to promote the cause of women and give them their rightful position as equal partners, intelligent, instrumental and with the potential to effectively contribute to the social, economic and political development process of society.
The Other Voice (TOV) seeks to
a) Highlight negative/discriminative policies and laws, how they affect women and lobby for their reform.
b) Generate and sustain gender debate for a fair and just society in Uganda.
c) Highlight human rights abuses or violation relating to particularly women and other marginalized groups such as children and the disabled.
d) Provide a platform for women, children and the disabled people to have their voices heard.
e) To counter the negative portrayal of women in and by the media.
f) To provide development civic education on topical issues such as; peace building, good governance and public accountability among others.
TOV’s primary target are the policy makers so they can legislate positively for women. It aims at sensitizing the Ugandan community on gender issues in relation to the country’s overall development.
The publication comes once every three months. TOV used to be published in five languages. Today it is published in English only, and circulated by The New Vision, Uganda’s leading daily
The Other Voice: July 2011
Click on the links below to read our latest edition of The Other Voice published in January 2011:
If you cannot read the pdf-files. Here are some of the stories from the January 2011-edition:
RAPED OR DEFILED!
Which way first, police or hospital?
By: Our reporter
For many, coercive measures must be quickly and forcefully sought against a sexual abuser: a rapist or defiler. Rush to police and arrest so and so, many are heard yelling with a lot of anger. Others are busy advising the victim against being seen in public for this is “shameful and would cost her a relationship or marriage”. By this time the victim has already been ‘neatly’ washed off the semen, her torn underpant and that of the perpetrator he quickly abandoned have been burnt or thrown deep down because they will bring bad omen!
Situations of rape or defilement bring a lot of distress to the victim and the immediate family. They quickly want to forget that it ever happened but deep down they, or we all want to bring the culprit to book, and see justice done. But unfortunately justice cannot be administered without concrete evidence.
At a community dialogue on No Violence Against Women held last month in Kingo, Masaka District, most residents were against taking the victim to hospital because they wanted to first ‘deal ’ with the perpetrator. One resident quipped: “By the time I get a medical report, wouldn’t the offender have run away, or even committed a similar offense? We must secure the offender and keep him in custody before we do anything else.” What the Kingo community forgot to say is that sometimes the perpetrator may even disappear for good, and if they are lucky to get him, he will deny, and by this time, he may not bear any prima facie linkage with the crime. And for the victim? She was safely guarded against visiting the hospital!
A consultant on Gender from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), notes that however disgusting and ‘embarrassing’ for the victim to visit the hospital with unwashed private parts, a medical examination should be step one, not only to collect evidence against the perpetrator but to save her life by reducing on her chances of getting infected with STDs, HIV/AIDS and tetanus, as well as getting unwanted pregnancy.
Ms. Loyce Asire Allen, responsible for backstopping gender at UNFPA says: “At any Grade Four or any major hospital in Uganda, the victims will be given post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), a preventive treatment (in tablet form) against STDs, HIV/AIDS and pregnancy. Also she will receive a tetanus toxide injection against bacteria in case she suffered any tears while struggling with the offender. For effectiveness, this medication should be administered between 2 hours and 3 days after the crime was committed; after which the victim will be susceptible to those diseases”. Emphasizing the importance and urgency of the medical examination, Ms. Asire noted that sexual offenders are mostly HIV positive, therefore the need for the preventive measure to be done quickly.
She urged women to have confidence in the medical personnel because it is only after examining the offender’s fluids and pubic hair that may have stuck in or on the body that will provide concrete evidence for the case. “The medical and not the police report is the only concrete evidence that the court can use against the perpetrator. But it is also important to have the medical officer ready to testify”, she said. The women were further advised to always have more than one copy of such documents to avoid situations of “files getting lost at the police stations!”
WHY IS THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT ONLY A SCARE CROW?
Nine months after its enactment, the Act has not brought a single offender to book!
By Anne Kari Garberg
AFTER languishing in parliament for almost a decade, it was a hard-won victory for gender rights in Uganda when the House finally passed the domestic violence bill in November 2009. In March last year , President Museveni assented to the Act and it was official; Uganda finally had a legislation that specifically handles domestic violence. The law cast a ray of hope for the thousands of women and children. While earlier, rape within marriage was not even considered a crime, and most domestic violence offenders went unpunished, the new law would make sure that offenders would be prosecuted and convicted in courts of law. According to the Gender, Labour and Social Development Minister, Gabriel Opio, the Act would ensure fairness when dealing with domestic relations between a man and a woman and other people in the domestic setting, including housemaids and children.
The law is not being enforced!
But ten months after its enactment, the Act is still miles away from making a real difference for the victims of domestic violence. Often times women are let down by the notorious justice system in Uganda and many still live in agony. Faridah Nazziwa 27, a resident of Nabweru says that her husband, a one Ronald Katege with whom she has two children beat her up and broke her back as she tried to solicit support for her children from their father who neglected them. She says she took the case to the police and the man was arrested, but he didn’t even spend a night in the cell as his relatives bribed the police and had him released. She says the law on domestic violence sounds a good tool but not to her because nothing seems to be on ground. Faridah thinks that if the law is already in operation, why has she not seen justice from the case she filed months ago? Harriet Nabankema, a legal officer with FIDA-Uganda says: The law on domestic violence has not once been enforced since it came into place. Why? Victims of domestic violence still face numerous economic and social obstacles while pursuing justice. In other words, the law is there but the victims can’t access it.
A report released by Amnesty international last April shows that Ugandan authorities are not giving victims of domestic violence adequate support when seeking justice. Most women face inadequate response from the police, often having to pay for the cost of transportation to arrest the accused and other expenses related to
the investigation like paying for photocopies or money for their mobile phone airtime.
The report titled “I Can’t Afford Justice – Violence against women in Uganda” also shows that in cases where domestic violence involves sexual abuse the victims are supposed to report the matter rapidly so that a medical examination can be conducted within 48 hours after the crime. But as Nabankema also points out, poorer women are unable to afford this medical examination which can cost up to Ug Shs 30,000. Many victims of domestic violence are economically dependent on their abuser, and might even refrain from reporting the abuse at all, since the man is the main bread winner and him going to jail will imply that she and the children will suffer while he is gone. Another challenge is finding witnesses to testify in cases of domestic violence. Some people may want to witness, but fail to pay for transportation to court. Others still hold the attitude that domestic violence is a “private matter” and something the neighbours should not interfere with. Others are intimidated about people, hence they keep quiet although they may hear the painful cries of the woman next door.
Discriminatory attitudes in the police
Discriminatory attitudes and behaviour within the police also impede the full implementation of the law. According to Nabankema, many victims of domestic violence feel that they are being treated dismissively by the police. Attitudes, such as believing that a woman is to blame if she is subjected to violence and believing that a husband beating his wife once in a while is acceptable, are widespread within the police. Besides, many police officers find it more important to protect the family unit than to protect the safety and the rights of the woman. This is supported by the findings in Amnesty’s report which shows that the Ugandan police often encourage the victims to reconcile with their partners for the sake of preserving the family unit.
Attitudes must change
Training the police and changing their attitudes on domestic violence is therefore important if the law against domestic violence is to protect sufferers and punish perpetrators. But even more important is changing the attitudes among ordinary people and especially among the victims of domestic violence themselves. A report from United Nations Children’s Fund – UNICEF in 2008 indicated that 77 percent of women between the age of 15 and 49 felt that spousal violence was justified for a variety of reasons such as burning food or refusing sexual relations. Raising awareness on domestic violence and changing the attitudes and behaviours of men and women in the communities is therefore crucial if people are to make use of the law. Victims of domestic violence must understand that they are actually victims of a criminal offence, and that domestic abuse is not a private matter that can be justified because you argued with your partner or refused to have sex. The victims have to stop thinking that reporting domestic abuse is not washing your dirty linen in public, and start believing that reporting a criminal offence such as domestic abuse is actually your right and even your duty as a law abiding citizen. All in all, the law against domestic violence is a victory for gender equality in Uganda as it is a necessary condition for justice. But for the law to be effective, we have to change the cultural attitudes and beliefs in our country. All organizations, institutions and per- sons who can, should therefore seek knowledge about the new law and work assiduously to take the law out to communities and inform people about the rights that it provides.
Because as Nabankema says: The day a victim walks into a police station and speaks authoritatively about being domestically abused. The day she actually believes that she can take the offender to court and have him punished, and the day she knows that she can make it without him. That is the day when the law against domestic violence can achieve its objectives. We at UMWA are doing our part, are you?
How much have you invested in Gender-Based Violence prevention?
Many people working in the field of human rights, women or gender , and more specifically GBV (Gender Based Violence)prevention identify themselves as activists, but what do we really mean when we say we are activists? What is activism? What role do activists have in GBV prevention? THE OTHER VOICE sought to explore the concept and practice of activism and spoke with Jean Kemitane – Senior Program Officer , Raising Voices in charge of coordinating activities and communication for GBV Prevention Network. She suggests ways in which we can foster activism within ourselves and others.
What is Activism?
Activism simply means intentional action to bring about change. Activism for GBV prevention involves taking action to promote equality between women and men. Because activism is based on a vision, it is deeply connected to our beliefs and values. This is why a few sporadic actions, while important, usually are not considered activism. Instead, activism involves living our beliefs, which means that at all kinds of opportunities and situations in our professional and personal lives we take action with the ultimate vision of social change.
Some sentiments like: “I really care about equality – it is an injustice for women to experience violence, something must change! Am going to do whatever is in my power to make a difference!” drive activists working to prevent GBV. Activists are committed to the vision of safety, freedom and autonomy for women. They know that it is only when women are seen as equal to men as having the same value, worth and dignity that will they be able to live free violence and the fear of violence. In addition, activism for GBV prevention involves a deeper understanding of the root cause of GBV and a belief in equality and fair treatment of all human beings regardless their sex, race, ethnicity or religion. GBV activism involves a passion and commitment to social justice a belief in an individual ’s ability to create change. It involves an acceptance of personal responsibility to take action, reaching out to join strength with others, and a lifetime of taking action, however seemingly small, to reject inequality and work towards women’s enjoyment of their right to live free of fear and violence.
How long would the change take?
Activists recognize that although change takes a long time, it is possible. Activists energize and inspire others around them to take action. They have a lifelong commitment to promoting equality that stretches beyond their professional life. The do not see GBV-activism as a nine-to-five job but as part of actions required to create change in
their own life, their community and the world. Activism takes many forms, it is not only about being radical or rebellious, and it is not a one off event. It involves constantly raising our voices and those of others to chal lenge and reject injustice in society.
Is someone born an activist?
Activism is more a spirit that emerges in oneself. It is often sparked by a transformative moment or experience in one’s life. When growing from a personal experience, activism can emerge as a productive response to the outrage one feels about injustice or as a result of one’s reflection and response to injustice. Let’s take a look at Grace’s life. Grace is an activist working with an NGO that addresses violence against women. While she was growing up, Grace witnessed her mother experiencing violence and saw how it affected her mother, herself , and the rest of the family. She saw on a daily basis how the injustice and indignity of violence eroded her mother’s self-esteem, her opportunities, and her sense of self. She witnessed the suffering and was profoundly moved by it. Grace recognized that her mother’s personal experience was sanctioned by the community and continued because others felt this was an acceptable and normal way to treat a woman.
Thus, Grace made the connection between her personal experience and social injustice and saw all its linkages. Her experience compelled her to be an activist. She has a fierce belief in the rights of women and now, in her personal and professional life, is working toward this. Activism is triggered when we link our own personal experiences to broader injustice. We recognize that violence happens to women not because of what women as individuals do or do not do – but because collectively women are considered less as human beings than men. Therefore GBV prevention activists work to change systems and structures that perpetuate inequality.
Who can be an Activist for GBV prevention?
You and I – and everyone can and should be activists! Activism does not require specialist knowledge or skills, it only requires the courage and commitment to become aware and take action. Activism lives in one’s heart and comes in many forms. We all have the potential and power to be activist in our own way– every day. We can challenge injustice in and bring an activist spirit to our families, places of work, and communities. Take action today!