Grisly and ghastly are probably the most apt words to describe the story that appeared in this newspaper yesterday, of a young woman whose hands were chopped off by an angry ex-husband (Man held over attack on ex-wife, Daily Monitor, February 6).
According to the story, Perpetua Natukunda, a mother of two, was living in peace and quiet with her mother in Karunga village, Rushesha Sub-county, Isingiro District, having parted company with her husband Julius Kabagambe. She was attacked and chopped mercilessly by a man who could not stomach rejection.
This is not an attack on Natukunda alone; it is an assault on the independence and dignity of women. The right to marry also includes the right not to marry or to walk out of a marriage if one chooses, especially if it is to flee a husband who is so violent that he has no qualms walking into the home of his former in-laws, chop the door to pieces, before proceeding to unleash similar treatment on two daughters of the family.
The implication of hands cut off is all too obvious; it is enough that many women in rural areas are helpless because of lack of economic empowerment. It is now a double tragedy for them if their arms are cut off.
Perhaps the most unfortunate bit about this story is that it is not isolated; it is one in a series of many more ghastly attacks on women by their lovers or husbands. Some have died…but many have survived to narrate their ordeals. This is a deadly trend that must be arrested or else at this rate we shall have too many women maimed by intolerant and inhuman male species.
In Bison slum, Tororo Municipality, Tororo District, Nusura Nyaburu, a mother of four, was maimed by her ex-husband Issa Onyango, who hacked off her nose on September 26, 2011, using a sharp carpentry carving tool that ripped off the nose completely, save for a few threads that told the gruesome tale of a nose that once was.
The hideous attack by Onyango came 10 months after the couple had separated.
In October 2011, in Omukabare village, Kashari, Mbarara District, one Herbert Muhumuza allegedly cut off his wife Melece Atukwase's arm with a panga after picking an argument with her.
In November 2010, Mubende, Annette Nazziwa had both hands cut off by her boyfriend Douglas Ssempijja who waylaid her on her way home after picking coffee - an assault witnessed by her mother whose shouts for help went unheeded. For good measure, Ssempijja disappeared with the severed hands into the bush and was on the run until his arrest two months later. The sad commentary on this case was that the beast was given a very light sentence of just 10 years in jail!
Then there was yet another bizarre case in Mbarara which involved a minor whose leg was cut off after she resisted a rapist – whose earlier sexual advances she had repeatedly rejected. Rogers Kamugisha beat up the little girl, repeatedly cut her up and then proceeded to chop of her leg!!
Kamugisha who is currently enjoying the hospitality of Uganda Prison Service as he awaits trial over attempted murder, pleaded guilty to the barbarism with a perfectly casual air about him.
These are not just ordinary incidents; they are crimes that shock the conscience of humanity and must not be left to continue unabated.
Whereas Government is committed to preserving law and order and ensuring that the country is secure for all citizens to enjoy their rights and make a decent living, it is difficult to completely prevent such unforgivable crimes from recurring. The fight against crime is highly contingent on a partnership between government and the general public; both sides helping each other to detect such crimes before they occur and take necessary steps to prevent them.
At the same time, the Judiciary needs to handle such heinous crime with the seriousness it deserves and dish out deserving sentences that will not only amply punish those found guilty but also provide a soothing solace to the victims and their families. It is a kick in the teeth when a man who cuts off his wife's or girlfriend's arms gets off with just 10 years in jail. Attempted murder attracts a life sentence; it defeats logic when a beast like that gets 10 years; meaning that with ‘good behaviour' he could walk out of prison in seven years. What circumstances could possibly mitigate a life sentence to a mere 10 years? What deterrent can such a sentence provide to intending offenders?
In the last 26 years, Ugandan women have made steady gains, thanks to the affirmative environment that came with the current government. Let us not sit by idly as these gains are reversed by beasts in the name of men.