Rape figuratively refers to the sexual intercourse that is non-consensual (not agreed upon), or the act of forcing another person to have sex against their will and/or consent. While the names, times and contexts may differ, men, boys, women and girls of the different age divide across the world experience rape. This despondently happens in both the peaceful and violent settings and is overtly executed by strangers, friends and sometimes family members.
And whereas rape is shunned, unacceptable and regarded as one of the felony offences (those among the most serious crimes committed), multiple studies show that the media as well as the general public universally have continued to consciously or subconsciously sexualize it.
Could it be because it is the women who mostly fall victim to this brutal and undeservedly behavior or are the statistics of the reported cases further marginalized by the fact that most of the victims are closest and dear to the Mother Nature.
As the world prepares to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, from 25 November to 10 December 2019, under the global theme, Ending GBV in the World of Work” Ugandans should explore practical means to fight this silent epidemic with the contempt it deserves.
According to the recent Uganda Police Force’s Annual Crime Report, Gender-Based violence cases that were reported and investigated increased by 4% (from 38,651 to 40,258 cases) between 2015 and 2016.
In addition, the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2016 revealed that up to 22% of women aged 15 to 49 in the country had experienced some form of sexual violence. Also the report further revealed that each year, 13% of women aged between 15 to 49 experience sexual violence. This translates to more than 1 million women exposed to sexual violence annually which also includes rape. Furthermore, the phenomenon of the children having sex with fellow children has also not been addressed and yet it predisposes many of these them to diseases, early marriages and deaths, threatening their development opportunities.
However, what ought to be of concern as Ugandans should not be limited to the above statistics that solitary reflectthe authoritatively reported and investigatedcases but instead our attention to detail should be directed to the countless cases and the scores of victims that are either shy away or are intimidated against reporting their predicament of this shameful act. How about the cost and the permanent socialand the psychologicaleffects to the victims that interface with this ugly act?
And this should also be in cognizant of the fact that as much as the country has some laws in place such as the Penal Code (Amendment) Act 2007, the Domestic Violence Act 2010, to deal with the perpetrators, their enforcement has been to less fruition and sometimes that have failed to primarily address the key aspects of violence against women, later on its adverse effects and yet corroboration of evidence in these matters has also remained futile over the years.
In the recent past, the few times the debate to criminalize rape made its way through the public domain or on the floor of Parliament, the women have ended up being victimized and the debates habitually soiled with multiple accusations and all sorts of allegations of the subtle intentions of the women to deny their male counterparts sex, as if the denial is only the preserve of the men.
The debate on the Marriage and Divorce Bill, 2009 was also prematurely halted in the 9th Parliament in a bid to avert the negative stigma it had attracted and yet the Bill only seeks to consolidate the laws relating to the celebration and dissolution of marriage in Uganda. But the fact that the Bill also sought to address issues to do with marital rape, it has ended up where it is today due to the apprehensive rhetoric that was developed against it mostly by our male counterparts.
Another Bill that has failed to see the light of day; including having been thrown out of business to follow in the 10th Parliament is the Sexual Offences Bill 2019, formerly, tabled in 2013. Like the latter, this Bill also seeks to consolidate all laws related to the sex offences. However, since it carries provisions that relate to rape, aggravated defilement, sexual harassment among other issues, this Bill has also faced similar and untimely demonization which is atypical whenever any debate related to rape and defilement comes about in this country.
Should we continue to hide our heads in the sand and remain subtle and devoid of the fact that rape is committed in our homes, workplaces, places of worship and in the unthinkable places or shouldn’t we stand out and fight to see to it that this ‘big elephant’ ; is and condemned and fought with bare knuckles? This is over to you my fellow activists, duty bearers and the government of Uganda.
The writer is Betty Iyamuremye-Communications Officer-Platform for Labour Action