Little Access to Justice for Women in Uganda

April 21, 2010

Lately, when we think about Uganda, we usually think about two things: the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. But let’s not forget about another important issue: the Ugandan government’s failure to fully address the issue of violence against women in Uganda.

Our new report, “I Can’t Afford Justice: Violence against Women in Uganda Continues Unchecked and Unpunished,” paints a stark picture of the violence and lack of justice women in Uganda are faced with on a daily basis. Violence against women and girls in Uganda is widespread and is exacerbated by discrimination based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, class and age.

Attitudes that accept and justify violence against women are widely held within Ugandan society. When we interviewed women in Uganda, they expressed their frustrations with the obstacles to pursuing justice in their communities. For many, laws are not enforced, harassment of victims is widespread, and there is no easy access to justice.

An African woman’s no means yes – Ugandan government official

This is not simply a matter of law enforcement. Our report also examines the reasons why many victims of sexual and gender-based violence stay silent. In a society where there are widely held beliefs that a woman is to blame if she is the victim of violence, many women are simply too ashamed to seek justice.

And in the rare occasions when they do seek help, victims of gender-based violence find that there are insufficient services to protect and help them. They are turned away from shelters for lack of space and legal aid institutions are overwhelmed with cases of gender-based violence. Many women endure violent situations because they have nowhere else to go.

We are calling on Ugandan authorities to intensify and improve their efforts to protect and promote the right of women to lead a life free of violence. As a woman who is lucky enough to enjoy security, equality and access to justice, I hope they listen.

And don’t forget to ask your elected officials to support the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA). Working through the international assistance that the United States already provides, this bipartisan bill will support best practices against violence aimed at women and girls, the kind of violence women in Uganda are experiencing.

Rebecca Friedrichs contributed to this blog post