On a rainy morning of 28th February, 2018, stakeholders, representatives from government ministries, departments and agencies, members of parliament, development partners, the media and members of the general public, gathered at Serena hotel-Kampala to receive the research findings of a study carried out on the effective implementation of the domestic violence act in the Teso and Acholi regions. The study encompassed districts of Lamwo, Omoro, Katakwi, Kitgum and Kaberamaido.
Also in attendance were ACFODE’s implementing partners such as Muslim Council for justice and law, Faith based organizations, the Uganda Women Parliament Association-UWOPA and Action for Development staff and board members.
Speaking at the event, the Executive Director, Ms Regina Bafaki said that there were many challenges with the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) and therefore hoped that by sharing the findings, all stakeholders present would suggest tangible strategies to shape the way forward.
The study aimed at establishing knowledge on the existing Gender Based Violence-GBV laws and policies among duty bearers at local level, to establish awareness of the existing GBV policies and laws as well as rights and responsibilities among men and women. It also sought to access the status of implementation of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) and the Gender Based Violence (GBV) Policy and Action Plan among various stakeholders at national and community levels. Relatedly, was also to establish the Interventions taken at national and local level in addressing Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Questions answered by the research ranged from; what are the roles of key stakeholders in the implementation of the DVA as spelt out in the law and what are they actually doing to implement the law? What is the level of knowledge of the DVA, the GBV Policy and the Action Plan?What is the level of existing capacity for the implementation of the GBV Policy and Action Plan? What are the gaps, constraints and challenges in the implementation of the DVA, the GBV Policy and the Action Plan? What should be done to contribute to more effective implementation of the DVA?
Key findings of the study were that the roles of the key stakeholders in implementing DVA were mainly related to coordination, monitoring of implementation, creating awareness of the existence of the law, capacity-building of duty bearers for effective implementation of the law, provision of information and materials and advocacy for resource allocation for the implementation of the law.
It was noted that at national level, the coordination role is carried out through the National GBV Reference Group, which involves key stakeholders working on GBV; while at district level, there are GBV coordination committees that handle GBV issues, including domestic violence. DCDOs, Community Probation Officers (CPOs) and Community Gender Officers (CGOs) and Community Development Officers (CDOs) at sub-county level, who work with communities, for the successful implementation of the Domestic violence act (DVA).
At the ministry level, Ministry of health had had Health workers trained to provide psycho-social support and medical care to victims/survivors of domestic violence and handle cases of domestic violence and in providing evidence when cases of domestic violence are in courts of law.
As stipulated in the DVAct, Police officers investigate complaints of domestic violence; (ii) assist victims including giving assistance or advice in obtaining shelter; (iii) ensure that victims undergo medical examination and receive medical treatment; (iv) advise victims of the right to apply for relief and the right to lodge a criminal complaint; and offer procedural guidance.
In all the districts, community policing was seen to be a useful approach to addressing GBV. It was reported that the police and communities discuss all types of crime, including GBV, during the community policing sensitization sessions.
“The introduction of community policing is working for us. Issues of women’s rights, child rights are usually integrated in our sessions while engaging with the community. I must say most communities are aware of the existence of the law related to domestic violence…,” reported a key informant from Lamwo district.
However, some of the people interviewed mentioned that the police was not up to speed with their roles. Some said that the police is corrupt and releases suspects when given some money.
Findings further indicated that the Penal Code Act is stronger on perpetrators causing grievous harm to the victim than the domestic violence act.
“As prosecutors, it is hard to prosecute a murder suspect under the DVA; the sentence just kills it! It is ideal to prosecute cases of domestic violence under the DVA but the prescribed sentence does not treat domestic violence as a serious issue to be addressed,” Reported a respondent, DPP’s Office, Kampala
The approach of male engagement and creation of awareness of the domestic violence act -DVA had also led to reduction in domestic violence, and was noted to be a promising approach by the study. The economic empowerment of women in some districts through village saving associations indicated that these platforms have been used to hold effective Gender Based Violence -GBV prevention coordination meetings, which have been useful in addressing the problem.
Integration of faith based organizations and cultural institutions also proved instrumental in addressing gender based violence (GBV). Interviews with some of the faith based organizations (FBOs) representatives indicated that the integration of faith in addressing GBV prevention has been successful. Some respondents however mentioned that cultural leaders were sometimes not very supportive for fear that addressing Gender Based Violence would interfere with their cultural practices.
Ms Bafaki also said that the study had cited that having the DVA in place and disseminating it had contributed to creating awareness about domestic violence as a violation of human rights and increased reporting.
Some of the challenges and gaps presented by the study were that: there were few interventions in place to curb domestic violence as compared to what needs to be done. There is also limited coverage of domestic violence cases, moreover most of the work on the ground had been done by civil society organizations and faith based organizations -FBOs.
Another challenge is the inability of the government to allocate resources for GBV; GBV yet it should be the responsibility of the government through the ministry of gender, labor and social developments (MGLSD) to provide resources to address GBV.
It was also noted that no local council one elections had taken place, moreover, these are very key in handling domestic violence cases.
“The Uganda Police Force-UPF has limited resources to carry out investigations and follow-up of cases. Sometimes the police ask the survivors to provide money for key documentation such as Police Form 3A that is used to collect information on reported GBV cases,” reported Ms Regina Bafaki.
Some of the recommendations from the study were; capacity building of all stakeholders in regards to the gender based violence policy. Stakeholders were called upon to include the police, the Judiciary, the cultural institutions, faith based organizations (FBOs) and civil society organization (CSOs) on the gender based violence- GBV policy and its action plan.
The ministry of gender, labour and social development was implored to prioritize Gender Based Violence work and advocate for increased resource allocations. It was noted the ministry needed intensified advocacy with parliament and the ministry of finance, planning and economic development-MoFPED to convince them that GBV is a problem which affects the economy of the country and needs to be addressed for the country to attain middle-income status.
Also speaking at the event, Honorable Monica Amoding, the chairperson Uganda Women Parliament Association, said that there was need for civil society organizations to strengthen awareness at the grassroots as well as lobby for more male members of parliament to support gender equality.
Additonally, the honorable reported that the sexual offenses bill had reached the parliamentary legal committee and had been edited to include cases of aggravated rape, persons with disabilities as well as child rape.
“The proposed amendments seek to redefine rape to make it broader and thereby capture more instances of violence against women and men that are currently not taken care of in existing legislation for example the draft amendments propose to redefine a sexual act to include penetration of the vagina, mouth or anus. It is also proposed that rape should not be limited to an act of immorality but should constitute an act of violence against the person,” said Ms Amoding.
It was concluded that gender based violence still remains a huge vice in Uganda and that it required everyone’s efforts to create a violent free society.