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.