Joint Advocacy for SRHR in Uganda (JAS)

On 13th February 2020, CEHURD signed a cooperation agreement with Sweden ( The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency- SIDA) for a Joint Advocacy for SRHRs in Uganda Programme (JAS), aiming at policy change and enhanced capacity of right holders, duty bearers and communities to effectively advocate for and protect Sexual Reproductive Health Rights in Uganda.

This Programme will cover 14 Districts and aims at having a progressive movement boldly challenging the deep structures affecting the realization of SRHRs in Uganda.

We are delighted and mostly looking forward to working towards fruitful outcomes.

CEHURD’s 2020 Annual Staff Retreat

CEHURD’s Annual Staff retreat was held from Monday 20th -24th Friday, January 2020 at Wash and Wills Hotel, Mbale. CEHURD’s Annual Retreats take place every beginning of the year to set pace for all forth coming activities, to plan, reflect on achievements, present new changes made in organizational structures and build staff capacities.

It is during this space that the team got to thoroughly digest and familiarize with the 2020-2024 new strategic operational plan, do intensive work planning, engage in capacity building, team building and analysing the conceptual underpinnings on the right to health. Annaul planning allows us to prioritize and make proper utilization of time, resources and budgets.

The retreat was blended with team work, trips and nature walks, aerobics, wellness & self-care sessions, group dinners and orientation of new staff with an aim of strengthening relationships, building strong teams, strategic planning, strengethening institutional culture, and restructuring.

By Twemanye Jacqueline

Rape and Sexual Assault

        

Understanding Rape and Assault

Rape is a wide term and its interpretation varies depending on several factors ranging from religious beliefs, culture, interpretation of the law and personal convictions. It is important to note that Rape is a component of Sexual Assault.

Sexual Assault is an illegal sexual, physical, verbal, or visual act that usually involves force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent (as because of age or physical or mental incapacity) or who places the assailant (such as a doctor) in a position of trust or authority[i]

Rape is a type of sexual assault involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out by a perpetrator against a person without consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of power or authority, or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or is below the legal age of consent.

However, we can not talk about Rape without talking about Defilement; while rape survivors are of age 18 and above, defilement survivors are below 18 years of age and are considered by Law to be children.

In Uganda, defilement cases are rampant and are common practice in schools, churches, homes; places which should be a safe place for children. Hardly a month goes by without media reports on defilement, or other forms of sex related crime against children. The Ugandan law defines defilement as the act of having sexual intercourse with a girl under 18, while rape is having sex with a woman without her consent, usually by force.[ii]

Reports that show the gravity of the Rape and Sexual Assault state in Uganda

According to the presiding High Court Judge, Justice Gadenya Paul Wolimbwa, much attention is drawn towards Sexual Gender Based Violence cases such as defilement, rape and domestic violence, because they constitute 62 percent of the cases in the High Court of Uganda.[iii] He noted that sexual and gender-based violence offences are the most common and prevalent offences committed in Uganda.

Through 2005-2014, rape fluctuated substantially; it tended to decrease ending at 2.9 cases per 100,000 population.[iv]

Worryingly, the Police Crime report for 2015 indicates that at least 1,419 cases of rape were reported countrywide. This rose to 1,572 in 2016, dropped to 1,335 in 2017, and rose to 1,580 cases in 2018.[v]

1 in 3 women are victims or survivors of sexual violence, 1 in 6 men are survivors/victims of Rape and Assault.

The above statistics are appalling and shocking, what aren’t we doing well? Has the law failed in some way or it’s the community that is not doing enough?

What the Law says about Rape

Section 123 of the Penal code Act defines of rape as the unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind or by fear of bodily harm, or by means of false representations as to the nature of the act, or in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, commits the felony termed rape.

Section 124 of the Penal Code Act of Uganda states that the punishment for a person convicted of rape is death.

Under Section 125 of the Penal Code Act, any person who attempts to commit rape commits a felony and is liable to imprisonment for life with or without corporal punishment.

Section 128 of the Penal code on Indecent assaults; Any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults any woman or girl commits a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years, with or without corporal punishment.

Section 129 of the Penal code on defilement of girls under the age of eighteen; any person who unlawfully has sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of eighteen years commits an offence and is liable to suffer death.

Why the increasing Rape and Assault cases in Uganda?

Clearly it is not the absence of the Law that has caused failure to eliminate rape and sexual assault in our society. The police, Ministry of Health, Parliament, religious sector, the media, Health and Human rights organizations like CEHURD are the leading institutions in fighting this vice. But it is still an uphill climb,

Some of the possible reasons include;

  • The increased drug abuse among the young population
  • The delay in the Justice system for rape victims to get justice
  • Victims of rape, especially the corporate type, rarely report cases of rape to police due to stigma
  • Unemployment, leading to criminal minds
  • Media’s constant display of explicit content leading to moral decay

Who is mostly at the risk of Rape and Sexual Assault?

Women and girls experience sexual violence at high rates while men/boys experience it at a low rate. Attacks can happen from anywhere, by anyone at any time. Places like refugee camps, homes, schools, offices, isolated spaces are some of the breeding grounds for rape.

What next after rape?

It is true that there is a gap or little knowledge on what the victims of rape are supposed to do immediately after the unfortunate incident. The public needs to know that comprehensive sexual assault services are available at all levels of the public health care system, from local health centers and clinics to national referral hospitals.

The first step is to report the assault/ incident at the nearest police station. After the complaint has been lodged at the Police Station and a statement recorded, the victim is subjected to a medical examination to ascertain the authenticity of the rape, assault and gravity of the incident to inform the nature of the case and evidence to support the case.  Before a victim lodges a compliant at a Police Station and undergoes a medical examination, they are advised to avoid activities that could potentially damage evidence such as bathing, showering, using the restroom, changing clothes, combing hair, and cleaning up the area.

Rape survivors are most often in a compromised and highly vulnerable position when they seek for help. Attendants ought to recognize the vulnerability of these clients and ensure that treatment does not cause further trauma or secondary victimization. The treatment should be sensitively given, with confidentiality and informed consent.

Rape / sexual assault victims are advised undergo Medical Examination. DNA evidence from the crime scene should be collected from the crime scene, but it can also be collected from the body of the victim, clothes, and other personal belongings. In most cases, DNA evidence needs to be collected within 72 hours from the occurrence of the incident.

Effects of the Rape Trauma

Rape and Sexual Assault cases may come and go, but they leave  grave, life-long effects on victims., Their psychological health and physical well-being are usually adversely affected; some of these effects include; sexually transmitted infections (diseases), depression, low self-esteem, mental illness, suicidal thoughts, insecurity, poor performance, isolation, pregnancy, post traumatic disorder etc.

Way forward

  • Having more relevant and updated policies will ensure safety for all. As seen in Section 123 of the Penal code Act of 1954, only girls and women are considered to be victims, but time has shown that men and boys are also at risk.
  • Justice delayed is Justice denied, assailants should be brought to book as soon as possible and uncalled for delays in the Justice system should be eliminated.
  • Rehabilitation centers for Rape and Sexual Assault victims should be publicized more to support survivors emotionally and mentally
  • Men should be involved at ground level because they are extremely important in breaking the rape culture.
  • Government should step up mobilization, sensitization and education. Follow up referral pathways, investigate every single case reported quickly and effectively.

[i] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sexual%20assault

[ii] https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=What+is+Defilement+in+Uganda

[iii]http://www.judiciary.go.ug/data/news/608/Special%20Court%20Sessions%20to%20Clear%201,000%20SGBV%20Cases.html

[iv] https://knoema.com/atlas/Uganda/Rape-rate

[v] https://www.monitor.co.ug/Magazines/PeoplePower/Do-we-have-rape-crisis-country/689844-5415522-13yl07n/index.html