Posts Tagged ‘VAW’

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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 I came across this article in the  NewVision, Uganda’s  National Newspaper of 18 September 2011. I felt compelled to share it with my audience for them to understand the silence suffering of women in conflict and post conflict settings. This article brought out the gender dynamics of conflicts which are always under looked in post conflict recovery and development programmes.

THEY CALL ME MOTHER OF REBELS CHILDREN. At nine years of age in 1994, Christine Aol was on her way from school when the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels abducted her .From her home area in Patongo in present day Agago district, the rebels walked with her across valleys, woodlands and forests, until she could not even guess where they were.

Her first assignment in the bush was to kill a boy who had been caught trying to escape.” I was forced to hold a panga, cut off the boy’s head and hold it in my hand” says Aol.

The LRA immediately assigned her to a rebel fighter as a wife .Every day, Aol wanted to return home, but she feared the repercussions. She bore two children with the rebel fighter before she got a chance to escape in 2004 during heavy fighting between the army and the LRA.

But life after escape was not easy .Her neighbours often referred to her as the mother of a rebel’s children. Aol’s mother, Rose Anono, tried to send her away because she did not want to live with rebels’ children .However; she changed her mind after being counseled at Patongo Youth Centre, a local charity helping former LRA fighters re-integrate into the community. ‘Even then, the old woman often reverts to her old attitude. When mother gets angry, she tells me to take the children back to their father in the bush “, says Aol.

To make matters worse, she cannot find a man to marry. In this part of the country, it is rare for a man to marry a woman who has produced two children. It s million times more difficult if those children were fathered by a rebel .Men fear that ex-abductees became violent in the bush or might have contracted HIV from the rebels.

Like Aol, many girls are still suffering from the pains of war .According to the United  Nation as estimates, about 10,000 girls became child mothers when the LRA abducted them between 1988 and 2004.Another 88,000 girls, who were not abducted, became child mothers due to the conditions in internally  displaced people’s camps.

Alice Achiro, 24, was abducted in the 2000 on her way to collect fire wood.

‘I was forced to kill and remove the heart of a woman who tried to escape. I was also forced to have sex with a rebel .By the time I escaped, I had three children” she says .But her parents did not allow her back to their home in Palenga, Gulu district. Eventually, she became a sex worker.

Another former abducted, Annette Akello, 31, escaped in 2004 after 15 years in the bush .By then,she had four children fathered by a rebel .On reaching her home village in Padibe ,Kitgum district ,She found both her parents dead.”All her relatives, including other members of the community chased her away ‘, recalls Simon Odwee, an LC1 chairman of Padibe village in Kitgum district.

Akello then went to a bush and strangled all her children before hanging herself.

Such is the suffering of girls who were abducted, forced to sleep with rebels, turned into mothers at a tender age and then rejected by their own p

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