On my first full day working at CECORE, I had the pleasure of attending the national launch of IANSA’s Disarming Domestic Violence Campaign. In coordination with UANSA, CECORE organized a panel to discuss the symbiotic relationship that exists between domestic violence and small arms availability. The following blog entry describes the day’s events and contains video clips from the participants.* I had initially planned to also write more on the status of the current draft Domestic Violence Act that was recently tabled by the Ugandan parliament. After numerous appeals over the past two weeks to obtain a copy of the legislation, however, I just now (this morning) received the document. Legislation on domestic violence is to be applauded as a welcome and much-needed measure, and the draft does finally provide accountability for marital rape, but it is lacking in so many other areas. I decided that to discuss it properly, I should feature it in a separate entry, so the following entry is Part One of Two.
On Friday, June 19, The Centre for Conflict Resolution (CECORE) and the Uganda Action Network on Small Arms (UANSA) co-sponsored the national launch of the Disarming Domestic Violence (DDV) Campaign in a conference room at the Royal Imperial Hotel in downtown Kampala. The event featured expert panelists who spoke about the intersecting problems of domestic violence and small arms in Uganda. Rose Othieno, director of CECORE, and Richard Mugisha, UANSA coordinator, represented civil society organizations, while Miria Matembe, a former MP and Minister of Ethics and Integrity, and Joe Burua, the current director of the National Focal Point on Small Arms, provided insight into the government’s response to this problem.
Miria Matembe concurred that domestic violence in Uganda is treated as almost a “normal thing” and that officials, from police to the courts to parliament, have thus far been hesitant to take meaningful action to halt violence against women. She equates the problem with women’s overall lack of power and inferior status within society and pointed to the fact that men use small arms to maintain psychological and economic control over their spouses. Citing a recent incident from news reports, Matembe explained that women often resist leaving or pressing charges against an abusive spouse because they fear that they will not be able to support themselves financially on their own.
While Joe Burua agreed that the proliferation of small arms has led to increased levels of violence and insecurity in the region, he failed to recognize the disproportionate share of the burden that women must bear. He expressed doubts about the statistics that Ms. Othieno presented (statistics courtesy of IANSA, the World Health Organization, and The American Journal of Public Health), and he proceeded to claim that in Karamoja, women are as much to blame for gun violence as men. Rose Othieno rebutted, “We have facts to prove that women are more affected than men…The facts about who holds the gun is clear. Very few women hold the guns.” While the audience in the conference room seemed to concur with Othieno, Burua’s perspective is echoed by many Ugandans and has been a stumbling block for women’s groups seeking to put gun violence against women on the national agenda.
Miria Matembe spoke to the hearts of many frustrated Ugandan women when she passionately declared, “As long as the women continue to be marginalized, oppressed, and exploited…until the status of women is raised so that they are considered to be full human beings in their right, as long as society looks at them as just private people who can be violated…then the issue of domestic violence will always continue…The whole issue of domestic violence is an issue of power relations…and the gun compounds the issue of power.”
The audience, consisting primarily of representatives from the media and other civil society organizations, filled the conference room and readily expressed support for the campaign. The event received coverage on several local radio stations and appeared in an article in Monday’s edition of The Daily Monitor, a major national newspaper.
*My apologies for occasional shakiness and awkward angles with the camera-I was trying to avoid being overly obtrusive while sharing a small space three other camcorder operators.
Posted By Courtney Chance
Posted Jul 1st, 2009