UGANDA: Domestic Violence on the Increase in the Acholi Sub-Region

Monday, September 12, 2011
The Monitor
Eastern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

When the two-decade armed conflict that ravaged Acholi sub-region ended five years ago, women thought the worst was over. Together with their husbands and children, they jubilated. Little did they know that another warlord waited in their homes - domestic violence.

Women from the conflict affected Acholi sub-region say that male actions against them have not only frustrated their activities, but also the entire region which is currently undergoing rehabilitation to heal from rebel operations.

Physical violence and aggravated defilement are the most common and pronounced cases of gender based violence (GBV) in Pader and Agago Districts, the police said.

"The culture of disciplining women has not changed. Imagine, just delaying or failure to contribute to a clan meeting can prompt a clan to convict you, and the punishment is beating which can lead to death," says Ms Jennifer Ajilong, adding that women are beaten over minor cases like discussing in a meeting without a husband's consent.

She blames the rampant cases of physical violence to alcoholism, accusing men of grabbing money and cereals (simsim, millet and groundnuts) from their homes thus fueling anger. "Men do not want to work on farms, but when harvest time comes, they own the produce and the woman who labours has no authority; the man sells and decides without consulting his wife."

Women from the war affected region say that although some have started involving in government programmes, they still don't have authority to make independent decisions.

"Though women are benefiting from the PRDP facilities like water points, roads, and schools, there is a gap on the award of tenders and contracts which are male dominated, at the expense of women's income," laments Cecilia Apoko Olal, a woman activist under pressure group organised by the Isis-Women's International Cross Cultural Exchange (Isis-WICCE).

She narrates that the abuse extends to under-age girls who are defiled and their cases resolved out of court. "There is a limited number of female teachers in schools and health centres to help their female counterparts, making their life hard in such facilities."

Women suggest that existing and upcoming interventions should fully involve men, who are the main perpetrators of domestic violence.

"If these men are involved, however few they may be, a gradual change will be realised. There are many notorious but influential men in the community whom we think, upon invitation, can cause change," says Ms Veronica Ochan, a woman leader in Pader.

However, Mr Francis Toolit, a district councillor in Pader, insists that women's beating is a sign of love which if not done, can be a source of conflict.

In Otaka Parish, a 30-member farmer group - Lacan Pe Nino - has since started advocacy through drama and counseling, as well as family counseling, to reduce cases of violence in Aryek Village.

Ms Helen Kezie-Nwoha, the Programme Manager of Isis-WICCE comments: "Despite the level of sensitisation and intervention of several organisations, we have come to realise that a study on the relationship between masculinity and gender based violence is important to understand the perspective of men."

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Mr Patrick Tony Otukene, an activist with local organisation - Women Rural Development Network (WORUDET) says men do not want their wives to move.

"A young man can have three to four women and this causes tension in the families, but men do not expect anyone to complain about it. They don't want to be challenged saying a woman is just married to a home; therefore, has no authority," says Mr Otokene.

He says women are beaten over small cases like slaughtering a chicken without a man's consent, or selling produce.

Last month, a woman was killed in Pajule Sub-county in Pader over meat that was stolen by a dog from the kitchen, leaving her six-month baby; while another man killed his wife for failing to give him money to buy alcohol.