CSOs urge Parliament to hasten the passage of the Sexual Offences Bill
By Allan Kinani
The Select Committee investigating sexual violence in institutions of learning met with a coalition of Civil Society Members led by the Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP). The nine-member committee is chaired by Hon. Rwakojo Robinah, MP Gomba West County.
The committee was constituted following a motion for a resolution of Parliament urging Government to inquire into allegations of sexual violence in institutions of learning in Uganda presented by Hon. Adeke Anna and was unanimously adopted.
The CSOs comprised of Plan International Uganda, Raising Voices, Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP), Akiina Mama Wa Africa, and Bahai Faith, made a joint statement to the committee.
The organisations stressed that sexual violence is rampant in Uganda; women and girls are sexually abused at school, on the way to school, streets, and workplaces both informal and formal, places of worship, public transport, markets, and service places including hospitals and at home.
They remarked that sexual violence against women and girls hinders social and economic development, it prevents girls and women’s equal participation at the social, economic and political level, it is extremely costly to families, communities and nations, and it is a profound symbol of gender inequality and social injustice. The group added that it is a public health concern; increases women and girls risk to poor health and a driver for HIV/AIDS.
On the causes of sexual violence, the group said, manifests through power relations and that in patriarchal setting men and boys have more social privileges compared to women and girls. As such men feel entitled to use their power to sexually abuse women and girls with impunity as the men’s sexual advances are often tolerated by the community while the victims are blamed and shamed for the sexual abuse that they experience.
The presenters further asserted that a recent report from the just concluded investigations of sexual harassment at Makerere University (June 2018) revealed that sexual violence stems from power inequalities for instance exploitation of power in gender relations, student – lecturer relations, employer-employee relations and social economic status.
The group noted that institutions like Makerere University have put in place a sexual harassment policy but doubted its implementation process. They continued to call out institutions and employers who do not have sexual harassment policies because they do not take the sexual harassment seriously.
On recommendations, they urged Parliament to hasten passage of the Sexual Offences Bill to strengthen protection for women and girls from sexual abuse and exploitation, the Employment Act (2006) be amended to mandate all employers regardless of the number of employees to have a sexual violence policy among others.
They also urged the government to establish holistic data collection systems and carry out research to ascertain the scale and severity of sexual violence especially in higher and low institutions of learning.
The committee is still running the consultative meetings that will inform a report that will be presented to Parliament.