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ICT corruptionCorruption has remained rampant both in public and private institutions in the East African Region despite the efforts by government and civil society actors to curb it down. It continues to undermine economic development, perpetuates inequality among citizens and destroys the moral integrity and ethics of society.

 According to the Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index which ranks countries based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived, ranked Burundi, Kenya and Uganda at number 159, 145 and 151 respectively out of 176 countries.

At the recently concluded East Africa Anti-Corruption Dialogue held in Kampala and organized by Transparency International Uganda under the theme: Reject and Report Corruption your responsibility, participants across region shared experiences, best practices and methods of intervention taken by both state and non-state actors.

There was a strong emphasis on harnessing the use of information and communication technology in the fight against corruption.  Several actors at the dialogue called for use of automated systems to reduce human interactions, Transparency International Country Chapters in  Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda shared best practices on use of online platforms including social media, mobile phones to track and report corruption incidents. In 2016, Transparency International, Rwanda received 7000 complaints from citizens and this information was used for follow up.

Likewise Transparency International Uganda uses a Toll Free line where citizens call in to report cases. Transparency International Kenya uses social media advocacy especially @KenyansOnTwitter to raise awareness and report corruption in the country.

These platforms also facilitate access to information to the citizens about public goods and service delivery. Access to information is essential for the functioning of democracy and is a prerequisite for transparency and accountability, as well as citizens’ participation in governance.

 

 

 

 

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You cannot talk about access to justice for the victims of sexual violence if you do not understand the context in which this crime takes place’. Lady Justice, Prof. Tibatemwa Ekirikubinza, Supreme Court of the Republic of Uganda.

http://www.decalsplanet.com/item-11772-law-of-justice-women-balance.htmlSexual violence is defined as any sexual act that is perpetrated against someone’s will. It can be committed by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim and can occur in any setting.  It is deeply rooted in historical and structural inequalities that exist between men and women, and the different forms of gender-based discrimination that women are subjected to.

Survivors of sexual violence face significant barriers to accessing justice despite the existence of legal frameworks at international, regional and national levels that guarantees the right to access to justice.

In addition, because of the nature of the crime and poor cooperation and coordination between the different actors involved, access for survivors of sexual violence has remained a nightmare. ‘For decades, if not centuries, there has been a near-total absence of justice for survivors of rape and sexual violence says William Hague, the Former UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

In an effort to combat SGBV, as well as facilitating access to justice for the survivors of SGBV in the Great Lakes region, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) established a Regional Training Facility (RTF) on the Prevention and Suppression of sexual violence as mandated by Article 6(9) of the ICGLR protocol on Prevention and Suppression of sexual violence against women and children of 2006 ; and the ICGLR Pact on Security, Stability and Development  which obliges  Member States to prevent, criminalize and punish  all acts of sexual violence both  in times of peace and war, and in accordance with the national and international Law.

At a recent meeting, organized by the Training Facility, Judicial, Medical, Police officers, civil society and journalists in Uganda came together to dialogue and find ways of improving access to justice for survivors of sexual violence.

From the discussion, it was clear that there was general lack of knowledge and skills on how to collect and preserve of evidence by the police and the medical personnel. The Judges expressed disappointment on the kind of evidence that is normally presented in court which is sometimes irrelevant. ‘The court acts on the principle of proof beyond reasonable doubt and someone just presents a nicker in court and says this is my daughter’ remarked Justice David Batema. The investigators do not know how to collect substantive evidence. They should also know that every case has different ingredients, he added. He further highlighted the Police Form 3A which is used to collect evidence from the victim is an open check.

Likewise, Dr. Onen, A Consultant Pathologist lamented over the lack of a structure responsible for collecting and storing forensic evidence at the Ministry of Health. In the same way, the Judges re-echoed fact that if properly managed, medical-legal evidence can be used to pursue the case in circumstances where the victim/ witness loses interest. ‘If medical legal evidence has been properly built, even if money has exchanged hands, criminal justice system should be pursued’, said Hon. Lady Justice Susan Okalany.

The Judges also pointed out the issue of the language that is used by the medical officers while presenting evidence in court. When you are testifying, endeavor to use the language that the Judge understands, one of the judges commented.

Since sexual violence crimes are crimes committed against the state, there is also a challenge of balancing the duo status of the victim who is also a witness. Further still, the way in which the victims are handled in courts is sometimes so embarrassing and traumatizing as highlighted by one of the Prosecutors from the government Directorate of Public Prosecution ‘I have been in these court session and the questions posed to these ladies are so embarrassing’.

By not allowing the victims to testify in court chambers, the Judges were pointed out to be insensitive to the privacy and security of survivors. “Imagine a woman being asked by the Judge to re-count a rape ordeal in a court room five years later, this is secondary trauma that is subjected to her, said Lady Justice Susan Okalany .  Therefore, the Judicial officers need to be trained on how to handle sexual violence cases so that women and girls can appreciate courts as places of justice and not torture.

Lastly, the Judges pointed out lack of uniformity in sentencing sexual violence crimes. Although the courts have the Sentencing Guidelines, there are not specific and this gives the Judges power to decide on the final sentence which sometimes can be biased.

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vawOn 3rd November 2016, Uganda’s human rights situation will be reviewed for the second time by the United Nations Human Rights Council under the Universal Peer Review (UPR) mechanism. The UPR mechanism was established in 2006 has since reviewed the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. It reminds States of their responsibility to fully respect and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms. According to the UPR Info statistics, a total of

The review takes place after every four years and Uganda was last reviewed in 2011. A total of 182 recommendations were made by 51 states, 80 recommendations contained specific actions and 28 recommendations addressed women’s rights.  Some of the recommendations that Uganda accepted that addressed women’s rights were ensure the implementation of laws protecting women from violence including sexual violence, investigate cases of gender based violence and bring perpetrators to justice, provide legal and medical support to survivors.

 Some of the steps  taken by the government

Uganda has put in place the necessary legal and policy framework to support efforts to prevent SGBV. It boasts of a specific policy on sexual and gender based violence along with a Reproductive Health Policy. The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MoGLSD) in partnership with developed the National Action Plan for the Implementation of UNSCR 1325, 1820 and the Goma Declaration with a specific focus on ensuring the protection of women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse.

In line with the ICGLR declaration on ending SGBV, the Government of Uganda launched the Zero Tolerance to Violence against Women campaign in 2012. The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development has also made some progress by coordinating a SGBV Working Group that includes the participation of civil society actors engaged in various interventions to address SGBV. In addition, the ministry  launched a National Gender-Based Violence Database (NGBVD) to  collect, store and generate reports on Gender Based Violence in real time

Last but not least, the Uganda Police has incorporated a component on SGBV into their Training Curriculum and have gone ahead to establish an SGBV department in the Directorate of Criminal Investigations. To facilitate easy access to justice for SGBV survivors, the general Police Form 3, which was inadequate for recording complaints of sexual violence was revised because it was  found to be lacking in facilitating a comprehensive examination of victims of crimes. The forms were ambiguous especially for medical personnel who were tasked with completing them. This ambiguity affected prosecutions in court due to the numerous interpretations the form elicited thus creating reasonable doubt in the mind of the judicial officer. Further still, every victim of a sexual crime/assault was previously required to undergo medical examination by a medical officer who in most cases is a police surgeon. There are very few police surgeons on the ground and mainly based in urban areas. Accessing justice then became difficult for those in rural areas or those who had difficulty accessing a medical officer, for financial and other reasons.

 The Missing Links

 Despite the above efforts, the results are still minimal and violence against women has been on the increase. According to the Uganda Police crime report, 2014, violence against women was among the top crimes. Defilement continues to lead in Sex Related Crimes. In 2014 and a total of 12,077cases were recorded compared to 9,598cases in 2013, thus giving an increase of 25.8% while 1,099cases of rape were recorded compared to 1,042 cases in 2013, an increase by 5.4%. A total of 3,006 cases of Domestic Violence were registered and 314 deaths as a result of domestic violence.

According to the National Gender Based Violence Database, North and Eastern Uganda have the highest rates  at 45% and 43% respectively compared to central region at 6%. This so becasue the two regions are just recovering from the effects of the LRA  insurgency  which lasted for over  a period of 20 years.

Despite the above statistics, justice for the survivors of SGBV is still fear from being realized. For instance, the government has not set up special courts to handle SGBV cases and efforts to sensitize judges and magistrates are still minimal. It is also estimated that only 2 in 10 women report violence or seek help and even when cases are reported; and  conviction rates for perpetrators stand at only 6.6% of prosecuted cases.

Way Forward

Violence against women is deeply rooted in the unequal power relations between men and women and is triggered by the discriminatory social and cultural practices in the society.  Therefore, intervention to avert it have to be holistic and multidimensional.

As the government of Uganda prepares to undergo the second cycle of the UPR, more efforts are needed beyond adoption of laws and policies. The government of Uganda should allocate more resources and live up to its commitment of protecting women and girls from violence.

 

 

 

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It is so interesting how people distance themselves from feminism yet they are feminists. Today, I read an article in one of the daily  Uganda newspapers and the writer was explaining the fact that there is no distinct line between girls and mathematics; and the false  belief that mathematics and beautiful girls are like  oil and water- they do not mix. She further explained that she learnt from an early age that being a female wasn’t a disadvantage.  “I really get upset when opportunities are denied to one by a virtue of their gender, I hate stereotypes … I hate living in a box” she declared. And then she put a disclaimer, I don’t count myself a feminist, in fact I don’t quite understand what feminism is really about.

  In simple terms, Feminism is an ideology that believes in the social, political, and economic equality of women and men full stop. It challenges  and questions the power imbalance between men and women, discrimination, injustice and marginalization of women and girls in all spheres of life.

So why it is that many people feel uncomfortable with the word Feminism?

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When one mentions gender, what comes into your mind? Well, I guess it might not be different from what Oxford dictionary provides as the fact of being male or female. Gender has become a concept that is used in contemporary development vocabulary and is literally  defined as  the social cultural roles  ascribed to women and men because of their biological differences.  It has also become fashionable that every intervention, policy or program will have a component called gender. Many times, I  hear people saying that we have gender in our institution, organization programme etc because we have both men and women  and   others ask, where is gender (meaning women and men) in all this.

I should say that before I attended a gender training recently, my outlook and understanding of gender was not very different from what I have described above. I also believe that could be the perception of many people except for a few or handful who have had an opportunity to interrogate the concept beyond the surface denotation.  In this piece of writing, I would like to shade more lights on the deeper understanding and appreciation of gender for the benefit of you reading this.

Although gender is defined as the social cultural construction of roles between men and women, there is need to interpret the meaning of the roles and attributes assigned to men and women.  By doing this, one can understand that gender is not  being female or male but  the hidden historical power differences, inequality and injustice between women and men and society at large.

Connell (2002) defines gender in contemporary world as the massive hierarchies of power which cannot be reduced to male /female difference. Therefore, gender is about questioning and challenging power indifference.

Connell further stresses that gender arrangements are reproduced socially and not biologically by the power structures to constrain individuals and the arrangements are always changing as and may differ from one cultural context to another.

In other words, gender is a social structure that go beyond individual interactions between men and women. At one point, someone asked, If gender is the relationship between women and men, how do we account for power relations between women only groups or men only groups? Therefore dealing with gender goes beyond dealing with an individual women or men but also power structures in our society.  Gender challenges the current and historical power relations in a family, community, religious institutions, schools, workplace, the media, corporations and the state. of the weaker group which might not necessarily be women only.  Therefore, gender analysis interrogates the rules/ practices (both formal and informal) and how they permit or limit different categories of people in terms of who does what, who gets what, and who can claim what.

So each time you to encounter or hear the word gender do not diminish it to mean women’s issues, men and women, sex etc.  It is bigger than that; it is about challenging historical and current  power relations, discrimination, exploitation and inequalities so as to achieve social justice and equality. Nothing short of that.

My next reflection will be on patriarchy and feminist theories. Watch the space.

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budget2015The National Budget is a key instrument through which governments implement their policies. It is an annual plan of expenditures and income. It is also a plan of what monies the government expects to receive in forms of tax revenues against how much it expects to spend in a given financial year. The National budget is usually derived from projected domestic and external revenue and these are determined by several factors such as past trends, efficiency gains, growth in volume of imports, elasticity of taxes, real growth in the real monetary GDP and prices. Normally, prioritization of sectors in the National Budget is based on interventions with direct impact on growth and poverty   reductions in a given country. s guide sector prioritization. Budget consultations start from top to bottom entailing cabinet retreats, budget call circulars and Local Government Local Government (LG) workshops.

Last week, I attended a meeting by the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG), to analyze the Uganda National Budget Framework Paper (BFP) for the financial year 2015/16. The National Budget Framework Paper (BFP) outlines Government interventions for Social and Economic Development in a given financial year and provides link between Government’s overall policies and the Annual Budget. It lays out the fiscal policy framework and strategy for the budget year and in the medium term setting out how the Government intends to achieve its policy objectives over the medium term through the budget. The national BFP has three sections: Part 1 sets out the Government’s Medium Term macroeconomic forecast, Medium Term Fiscal Framework and Forecast, Charter of Fiscal Responsibility, the Resource Envelope and Annual Budget for and Fiscal Risks; Part 2 sets out Government’s Policy measures and programmes for social and economic development, as well as the indicative expenditure framework in FY 2015/16 and the medium term; and Part 3 provides details of proposed sector plans and expenditures.

My focus  in the budget paper on financing for social development. Although  the country is struggling to spend  within its means by reducing the total budget from 15829.9bn in FY 2014/15 to 14472.05bn in FY 2015/16, the cut has affected more of the social sectors such as  agriculture, education and health. Therefore the government’s proposal to reduce health budget by 317.4bn (from 1281bn to 963.7bn), Education by 45.3 bn (from 2026.6bn to 1981bn), agriculture by 56.7 (from 473.3bn to 4170bn) to mention but a few and yet Public Administration budget has increased by 155.3bn (from 554.8bn to 710.1bn), interest payment 678.4bn (from 1082.9bn to 1761.3bn) should be revised.

Reducing money of sectors that have direct impact on Uganda’s population will affect the overall welfare of the people and at the same time, increase the general economic costs  of o taking  care of sick, illiterate and hungry citizens.

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Fourteen years ago, UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 which recognizes women’s leadership in conflict prevention, resolution and peace building, as well as the gendered impact of war on women and girls. As part of promoting women’s participation as mandated by UNSCR 1325 and other international human rights instruments that promote women’s leadership and participation in decision making, Isis –WICCE has been conducting leadership training institution for women from conflict and post to upscale their knowledge, skills and enthusiasm towards making 1325 a reality.

The 2013/14 Institute brought together 35 women leaders Nepal, Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Myanmar and Uganda on a three phased training under the theme theme ‘Women’s Agency in Peace building and Human Security’.

During the last phase which will take place from August 6 to 12, 2014 in Thailand, women leaders are expected to share the findings their research studies which were conducted in the second phase. Using new knowledge and skills acquired from the first phase of the training in 2013, participants critically analysed women’s participation in peace building and decision making processes as stipulated in the UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

Participants from Nepal analyzed women’s participation in Local Peace Committees Local Peace Committee (LPC) that are formed at the level of a district, municipality, town or village and requires that 33% of its membership are women. The work of the LPC among others include facilitating joint, inclusive peace making and peace building processes within its own context, facilitating reconciliation process at the local level between two or more parties to conflict, conflict-affected victims, and other stakeholders.

According to the study, 50% of the study districts (10) LPC had been able to achieve 33 percent or more representation of women in current LPC. Although the numbers seem to paint a positive image, it was discovered that women were there only in the name of inclusion and this has been described by feminists as the “just add women and stir” approach that is present in some of the UNSCR 1325 implementation efforts today. The notion of “just add women and stir” completely instrumentalizes women’s lives and fails to challenge patriarchal systems and structures which have consistently discriminated and marginalized women.

The study further revealed that the 50% of women in the LPC as drawn from the marginalized population such as the indigenous women, the disabled and are considered weak and have lesser capacity to lead/argue on women issues.

Likewise, in Uganda, institute participants analyzed the impact of women’s participation within the Uganda police force. The Uganda Gender Policy 2007, emphasizes that all government recruitments should have 30% of women. The Uganda Police has tried to fulfill this requirement but in most cases, the percentage is hardly never reached because gendered perspective of police which is considered to be a masculine institution as well as set recruitment standards which requires the Ordinary level certificate with an emphasis of science subjects (which in most cases are also considered to be masculine subjects) as the minimum requirement. That notwithstanding, the Uganda Police Force has 5951 Female Officers and only 293 are at a senior level rank.

Numbers aside, just like in Nepal’s Local Peace Committees, where women are considered as weak members, in Uganda Police Force, the women are also considered as weak officers and very few women are in decision making positions. For example, out of 129 District Police Commissioners (DPCs), only 5 are women.
In the two countries, a trend of keeping women in inactive posts where they do not get opportunities to meaningfully participate in the decision making process was observed. Despite this situation, the two studies agree that women are playing a critical role and their leadership brings unique values and perspectives to peace building and that is why Isis-WICCE has continued to organise leadership institutes for women leaders to ensure that women’s leadership is not only about the numbers but also the competencies to lead and hold policy makers accountable.

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