SPECIAL REPORT: Strides made by JLOS institutions in the fight against SGBV

The Justice, Law and Order Sector has made significant strides in the fight against SGBV The Justice, Law and Order Sector has made significant strides in the fight against SGBV

 

The current chain of criminal justice system shows how sex related offenses are the mostly committed cases with defilement being the most committed sexual crime.

This means that if the concerned investigation and prosecuting government agencies don’t stand to this cause, the girl child is at a very high risk being defiled and dropping out school and worse contract the deadly HIV/Aids virus.

For starters sexual violence is any act which violates the autonomy and bodily integrity of women and children under the international criminal law including but not limited to; rape, sexual assault, grievous bodily harm, mutilation of female reproductive organs.

Talking statistics, the 2015 prison statistics showed that there were 4023 prisoners on remand and 2803 were convicts of sexual violence related cases. Further, the 2015 performance statistics of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions also showed that the total number of defilement cases (one example of sexual violence against girls) handled that year was 26,900 with 8,176 of these being newly registered cases.

Statistics also show that 7 out of every 10 women in Uganda have at one time gone through sexual violence, which is an alarming statistic.

The police annual report findings of 2014 also indicate that there is a rising trend of gender based sexual violence.

The report findings indicate that defilement continued to lead in sex related crimes in 2014 as a total of 12,077 cases were reported and investigated compared to 9,598 cases in 2013, thus giving an increase of 25.8 %.

Out of the reported defilement cases about half of them (5,015) were taken to court, out of which 432 cases secured convictions, 42 cases were acquitted, 290 cases were dismissed and 4,251 cases were still pending in court.

Turning to rape, the same report showed that several women continue being raped with 1,099 cases being reported in 2014 compared to 1,042 in 2013 hence an increase by 5.4%

East Kyoga region registered the highest number with 166 cases according to the report that was followed by Greater Masaka (79 cases), Rwizi & Aswa registered 67 cases each, Kampala Metropolitan Police North as well as Rwenzori registered 56 cases each, KMP East registered 55 cases and KMP South with 54 cases among others.

 

Steps taken by JLOS institutions to salvage this situation

Despite the above alarming statistics, all is not lost as several institutions under the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) are making big strides aimed at changing the aforementioned statistics.

Further, Uganda has a strong legislative and policy framework that supports elimination of gender based violence.

Some of these pieces of legislation include; the Domestic Violence Act 2010 and the Domestic Violence Regulations 2011, the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2010 and its Regulations 2011, the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act 2009, and the Penal Code Act, Cap 120.

 

The Judiciary

Mr Andrew Khaukha, the technical advisor of the Judiciary explains that at the moment, the Judiciary is in partnership with donors like Unicef that has resulted into the launch of ‘audio-visual link’ technology aimed at giving evidence by witnesses who are not physically in court.

With the launch of the audio-visual link technology, Mr Khaukha is optimistic that victims will eventually get justice as they will now freely testify against their perpetrators without being intimidated. 

“With the introduction of the audio- visual link system, the victims of sexual violence will be sitting in totally separate rooms from the main courtrooms and give evidence against their perpetrators without being intimidated”. Mr Khaukha explains.

“This kind of sitting arrangement is intended to give them (victims) confidence to give their evidence against their tormentors without any fear...” The technical advisor adds Plea bargaining program whereby a suspect enters into negotiations with the prosecution to accept their offense in exchange of a lighter sentence or lesser charges, has been another strategy that the Judiciary is using to fast track the hearing of cases that are sexual in nature, says Mr Khaukha.

Under this program, Mr Khaukha says that the victim’s voice is heard in the victim impact statement whereby some of them ask for compensation in form of damages and the perpetrator is able to make good of what went wrong.

He gave an example of the criminal session at the time that saw Justice Wilson Musene agree to the proposal by the victims to have their perpetrators compensate them in monetary terms that they used to treat themselves when they were sexually attacked.

According to technical advisor, this is intended to give the victim/s a voice emotionally, financially, physically and that sometimes, the voice of the community is also heard.

 

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions

Regarding the steps that the DPP is employing to curb the sexual related offense, Ms Kyomuhangi explains that the Directorate in order to get conversant with children’s affairs, they have continuously organized trainings for the prosecutors to acclimatize themselves with child friendly skills that will help them when they come into contact with them.

She adds that one of the strategies that the Directorate has come up with to ease the handling of sexual related cases is a strategy called the ‘prosecutor-guided investigations’.

In explaining this strategy, Ms Komuhangi says it involves the prosecutors working closely with the police investigating the cases so that no vital evidence is left out, a move that is aimed at securing convictions against perpetrators of sexual violence.

She laments that as prosecutors, they have lost quite a number of cases due to poor and shoddy investigations done by the police and this strategy is aimed at curbing such.

The other strategy that the office of the DPP has employed is the "witness-centered" approach strategy in which a sexual violence victim has a choice to testify against their tormentors either in open courtroom so as to shame them or testify against them in a separate room, different from the suspect.

She suggests that it’s necessary as prosecutors to meet the victims of sexual violence to create a rapport with them before their case can be heard so that they can freely express themselves and narrate to court what exactly happened to them.

 

Ministry of Gender 

Ms Maggie Kyomukama, an official at the ministry says that interventions have been put in place to address challenges that come alongside gender based sexual violence cases but in specific, sexual related cases. 

She says there is a light at the end of the tunnel on grounds that a number of mechanisms have been put in place like forming a forum to strengthen the coordination of gender based violence and response mechanisms through a multi sectoral approach.

Further, Ms Kyomukama reveals that the ministry has established a child Help-Line which is toll free (116) that the children can call and report violence and related issues committed against them and can be helped.

She also states that the ministry has in collaboration with district local governments and CSO partners, supported and established seven gender based violence advisory centers and shelters in the districts of Gulu, Kamuli, Masaka, Lira, Namutumba and Moroto.

 

By Anthony Wesaka / Posted: January 18, 2019  (This article was originally published in the JLOS SIP III Magazine Edition)

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