Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET)

SOBRE LA VIOLENCIA CONTA LA MUJER... testimonio presentado por la corresponsal de Isis en Uganda

1. What is the financial cost of Violence Against Women?

Here in Africa and Uganda in particular, I am sure the cost would be enormous given the magnitude and prevalence of this particular Human Rights abuse i.e. for treatment, legal intervention and time taken by relatives to look after the victims. Traditionally in some societies in Uganda when a woman is bartered by her husband, her co-wife or a sister takes off time to look after her. This reduces the woman-power in the fields (agriculture) being the backbone of the economy and therefore has huge effects on the economy of the country. Women doctor activists have on occasions indicated that a substantial number of their patients (those who can afford it!) are treated from conditions related to violence, but no one has thought of quantifying how much is spent to this type of ill health.  Therefore, it is very difficult to ascertain the actual cost because of lack of specific dis-aggregated data. I am glad however, to let
you know that UNFPA here in Uganda has spearheaded and succeeded in forming a gender coalition of women organisations working in the area of violence against women. Plans are under way to start collection of data on various types of violence against women. The financial costs are also expected to be analysed.

2. Law Enforcement Specifically Addressing Violence Against Women

The National Association of women Judges, in conjunction with the Uganda Law Commission has drafted a legislation in respect to Domestic Violence, which is being prepared for presentation to the government. Last year the same commission presented a proposal of Domestic Relations Bill after a comprehensive study which to some extent, has some relationships to Domestic Violence. This proposal however, faced a lot of resistance from some of the male folk who of course as we all know are the perpetrators!

3. Loss of Work

There are definitely a number of women who loose work due to violence but as earlier stated, lack of data on this subject makes it impossible to give an actual number. However, we will send you a case study we documented which could be a testimony from Uganda of a woman who had to give up work due to the violence she was experiencing. Through advocacy campaign this case is now registered with World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)  Gender as case number UGA 020699.VAW/Uganda/Domestic
Violence for redress.

4. Who Pays the Costs

In most cases, the violators in cases of domestic violence do not bother about the consequences of the violence. Women therefore (despite the poverty they live in) struggle to pay for their physical treatment.
Concerning the mental and psychological effects, which can not be identified by the victims themselves, friends or relatives, and there being no such services within their reach, let alone the cost, such women definitely die silently.

Turning to armed conflict, after the wars governments (and rightly so)  concentrate on the immediate basic meals i.e. food, clothing etc. and later the focus is mainly on economic and infrastructure development. In most cases the health of women survivors is not even thought of.  Isis-WICCE research findings and short term clinical investigations, which we are launching on 9th July, 1999 gives a clear picture justifying this.  Some of the cases need professional attention which these women cannot afford and as a result remain helpless, stressed, traumatized but still with the responsibility of fulfilling than gender roles.


Violated women and especially those of war situation are left in despair, weak and withdrawn. These conditions live them with very little energy to work for their lives and of their families. Therefore living in object poverty until death!

In order to make an effective intervention more research needs to be carried out on the issues you highlighted in your e-mail message. This will enable us to get the actual statistics of the prevalence as well as the major needs that should be addressed.

I hope this information will be of some help for the discussion.

Best wishes,

Ruth Ochieng
Plot 32 Bukoto Street,
PO Box 4934
Kampala, Uganda
East Africa
Tel. (256 41) 543953
Fax. (256 41) 543954

Another member stated that law reform is a necessary first step in ending violence: "there must be an existing legal framework for victims to seek legal redress."  She outlined efforts toward law reform in Uganda, where the Law Reform Commission undertook countrywide studies and involved NGOs in preparing a draft bill on domestic relations and domestic violence.  In 1995, the two bills were separated, after the draft bill on domestic relations (addressing such issues as property rights, cohabitation, age of marriage and age of consent) met with resistance linked to religious and
cultural factors. Activists are now organizing a lobby for the domestic relations bill which has not yet been presented in Parliament for debate, and plan to focus their attention on the draft domestic violence bill following passage of the domestic relations bill.  They are working to develop arguments in support of the bill, based on the Ugandan Constitution, international conventions and research.  They have also produced an index of reported cases which provides statistical and
empirical information on the prevalence of rape and defilement.

             "Marion E. Doro" <>

A 16 July message on financial costs of violence against women included a reference to Uganda NGOs collecting data on various forms of violence. The usefulness of such a project was questioned "... how much will the data help [the NGOs] efforts to lobby politicians?"

The short answer is that the lack of concrete evidence prolongs the efforts of women NGOs to end violence.  They have minimal chance of influencing the legislators unless they have sufficient evidence which demonstrates the negative consequences of violence.

In Ugandan society violence against one's wife is accepted as legitimate, and when it is mentioned most men shrug it off as "its our
culture".  Interestingly enough if a woman assaults her husband she is regarded as a criminal.

The US Department of State Uganda Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998 notes:
        "Violence against women, including rape, remained common.  There were no laws passed to protect women against battery, although there is a general law concerning assault.  In 1997 the Government began to implement the Children's Statute, which provides extensive protection for families and children.  However, implementation during the year proved exceedingly
difficult, in view of manpower and judicial constraints; in reality, little was done to enforce the statute's provisions.  Law enforcement
officials, consistent with general public opinion, continued to view wife beating as a husband's prerogative and rarely intervened in cases of domestic violence"  [see:]

There is more, but suffice it to say that Ugandan women endure violence in silence, and  conditions in the rural areas are far worse than in the cities.  With few exceptions the pattern is the same elsewhere in Africa. Women have few rights, neighbors are reluctant to get involved or seem to interfere with a husband's rights, and if women seek medical care after a beating they are most likely to cite some innocuous cause for the injuries.  The extent of violence is based on hearsay.  There is simply little or no legal administrative support system; even the police refrain from  taking action on what traditional law  regards  as a "domestic

Several women's rights groups, such as FIDA, Action for Development,  the National Association of Women Judges of Uganda, and the Forum for Women in Democracy, are actively pursuing reform and holding public workshops to lobby for revision of the Domestic Relations Act and land legislation. They face two major difficulties:  The first is the public silence on the issue, which grows out of the "its our culture" syndrome that simply accepts the so-called traditional notion that women are inferior  and the subsequent unwillingness to acknowledge this as a problem.  The second problem is that in the absence of concrete evidence it is exceedingly
difficult to persuade legislators of the need for reform.

If such concrete evidence can be produced, reported, and circulated, it would empower women and create a supportive public opinion which would question the viability/legitimacy  of the "its our  culture" response.
Such reports would be printed in the newspapers, especially those which are independent.  Legislators could not be dismissive about the issue.

Another question raised in the 16 July message is "If it is important and worthwhile, why hasn't it happened?"     Part of the answer is given in the next question they raise:  "insufficient funding?"

Uganda's coalition of women's organization deserves praise, support, and funding.
Marion E. Doro, PhD
Lucy Marsh Haskell Professor emeritus of Government
P.O. Box 5457  Connecticut College 270 Mohegan Ave, New London,CT  06320
Tel: 860-442-7513       Fax: 860-439-5333