J 802-31 tears Ann Marie Young, 25, cries as she grapples with depression brought on by a gunshot wound during a robbery that left her a paraplegic, unable to care for herself or her two young children. After Young tried to commit suicide three times and her mother could no longer meet her serious medical needs, she was moved to the Golden Age Home in Kingston, Jamaica, surrounded by residents who are decades older than her. The children now live with relatives. Food For The Poor staff photo by Benjamin Rusnak

Torture refers to action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something. Torture relies primarily on psychological effects, and only secondarily on any physical harm inflicted on a woman. Although not all torture involves the use of physical violence, there is a continuum between psychological torture and physical torture.

 In female victims, as in their male counterparts, the severity of the torture is related to the degree of their political involvement. However, torture is more frequently sexual, and its consequences more often affects the women’s sexual adaptation.

Promotion of gender equality in civil legislation have been welcomed in different countries yet these reforms are not sufficient to prevent gender discrimination and violation of women rights.

Women are particularly at risk of being subjected to torture according to the history of gender discrimination. Forms of torture inflicted on women include elector-shocks to the genitals, standing for long periods of time, being forced to strip and stand naked in front of people, beatings targeting the genitals and sexual abuse including rape and defilement.

Here in Uganda, authorities have done less to curb the dangerous acts incurred on women.  Just last year over 30 women were raped and killed in Entebbe and Nansana in Wakiso district. However much non-government organizations increased awareness of torture, sexual violence and discrimination in Uganda, little or nothing was done to reverse the situation. Women are increasingly willing to report such cases; the society has developed a new conciseness in which sexual violence and torture reflect shame on the victim. In different communities in Uganda, women are heard screaming at night when their husbands are beating them but still wake up in the morning and keep quite about it considering it family matters and police should not be involved. Sometimes it is for the fear of being stigmatized.

On the other hand, rape as a form of torture is a crime of violence, domination and coercion which causes severe physical and mental suffering. The act of rape strikes at the heart of the victims physical and moral integrity is categorized as cruel involving physical and psychological suffering. However much the victim is able to identify the perpetrator due to different forms of torture, it is considered irrelevant. Other cases of rape include youths and women being raped at work places and homes where they are hired to work and also in field as they move out to work.

Verbal harassment is the other form of torture to women. This is where by people make rude remarks through the use of a mouth. Such harassment affects the woman psychologically as she keeps on remembering what someone said about them. This makes them hate people, work and many other things. Still a lot of people go unpunished as this act is also considered normal and still unpunished under the laws of Uganda.

If only police could investigate such cases and punish the accused, it would lead to elimination of all forms of discrimination to women. The failure to investigate the incidents only serves to contribute to freedom of the perpetrators that raises all different forms of torture to women.

Women who speak or report cases of torture on them are at risk of further abuse by the accused or shame in public. Where officials of the state are the perpetrators, their actions reinforce a climate of violence and discrimination. Many women often do not disclose torture on them because they believe that reporting will not result into the perpetrators being punished.

Most women have been forced to flee their homes with or without their families. Women who have spoken out are subjected to legal action which still acts in a corrupt way. This makes it more difficult for survivors of torture to obtain justice which contributes to silence surrounding women being tortured.

Additionally, in several cases, perpetrators of sexual torture often remain unpunished due to delays in obtaining medical records, refusal to obtain them by relevant courts and victims denied their right to repatriate perpetrators of torture especially when they hold big positions in the state.

As a way of reducing torture against women in Uganda, security bodies like police and women rights activists plus government should investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of torture- be it a highly respectable man or not. The government should also protect human rights bodies such as organizations fighting for women’s rights plus improving access to medical attention and reliable medical evidence for victims of sexual torture.

Sentumbwe Edward


Women as torture victims

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