If you asked any child to randomly name people they would turn to for protection, naturally, parents, teachers, and guardians would come top of that list. However, according to a new report by Police, it has emerged that more children are being defiled by people expected to protect them, including their parents, guardians, and teachers. Dubbed Sex Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), the report indicates that a total of 6,888 children, including 6,805 girls and 83 boys were defiled in the last six months compared to 7, 216 cases reported in the same period in 2019. The report cites 61 parents, 64 guardians, and 54 teachers, among others, as perpetrators of the crime, which attracts life imprisonment, if found guilty. The Police have since arrested 2,727 people over the crime, according to the report that covers January to June 2020. The Police are now preaching caution, asking families to watch over their children who have been home since schools were closed in March, following the outbreak of COVID-19 that has since killed 55 people in the country.
According to the report; a total of 2, 652 cases of defilement were taken to court, out of which 171 cases secured convictions, one case was an acquittal, 24 were dismissed and 2, 456 cases are still pending in court. Most victims of defilement (4,822) were aged between 15-17 years, 640 of the victims were between 0-8 and 1, 446 were aged 9-14 years. The report indicates that generally, by the end of June, a total of 16,242 cases of SGBV were reported to Police, compared to 16,557 cases reported to Police during the same period in 2019, representing a decrease of 1.9%.On average, a total of 2,707 cases of SGBV were reported to Police per month.
Although the report recommends that the government (Police) should recruit and train more personnel to handle cases, especially against children with disabilities, most victims cannot afford medical examination, which is paid for especially in private clinics. Other challenges included inadequate transport facilities to access hard-to-reach areas, and compromise of cases between perpetrators and victims, where they prefer to settle cases out of court leading to case dismissal in courts of law. “That involves people staying indoors more with perpetrators, having no income due to unemployment, as well as children being exposed to violence due to the closure of schools.” Deputy Inspector General of Police Muzeyi Sabiiti said gender-based violence remains one of the most notable human rights violations and needs to be tackled with the seriousness and the focus it deserves. “Training and awareness remain a key tool. It is through training that you create disciples of good (when the cause is noble of course),” Sabiiti said. He made the remarks last week at the launch of training of Police officers and their families on gender-based violence and sexual reproductive health at the CID headquarters inKibuli, Kampala. According to Sabiiti, the Uganda Demographic Health Survey (UDHS)2016 shows that women are more than twice as likely to have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives, compared to men. A 2007 report by the health ministry identified the most prevalent types of violence at the time as wife battering (30%), defilement (25%), rape (20%), marital rape (13%), and sexual exploitation(12%). “One problem with statistics is that we talk about numbers and we forget that these are actually our children, sisters or brothers,” Sabiiti said. Sabiiti added that Uganda has enacted sufficient laws, but challenges remain in the implementation on account of a number of factors, including the adversarial system which Uganda inherited from the common law of England, which is inherently problematic in terms of SGBV cases.
“It creates a very antagonistic environment where parties who have to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt fail to appreciate the fragile nature of SGBV victims or survivors. This factor has a huge bearing on the success of such cases. This is made worse by cultural aspects that affect the response to some questions. The courts do not usually take this into consideration,” Sabiiti said. He also added that Police is strengthening the forensic capabilities in dealing with investigations of SGBV-related offences, to improve the quality of evidence