9 August 2012

Uganda: Financial Cost of Domestic Violence

That women suffer emotional and physical turmoil as a result of violence meted against them cannot be disputed.

However, what most do not appreciate are the far reaching economic effects not just on the survivors but the entire nation.

In 2011 alone, there were over five million episodes of violence against women, according to a Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention study (CEDOVIP). And the country paid colossally, shouldering a Shs 53.7bn burden as result.

This was 0.25% of Uganda's GDP. Also, public providers like the judiciary, health facilities and police spent Shs 37bn, about 0.5% of the national budget.

"This is a very large sum given the resource challenges faced by government," the research observes.

The study, carried out by Dr Ibrahim Kasirye of the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) at Makerere University, indicates that women are four times more likely to suffer domestic violence than men.

And if government spent more money on implementing the Domestic Violence Act, the costs incurred due to domestic violence would be less in the long run. Physical violence, sexual violence, controlling and obsessive behaviour, emotional and economic abuse - women in Uganda experience it all.

And they have learned to accept violence, believing it is justified in some instances. For example, women are battered if they deny their men sex, neglect the children, among others.

The research found that up to 70% of men, compared to 60% of women, say that a man is justified to beat his partner under these circumstances. The research traces the root cause of domestic violence in the country to deep patriarchal culture that promotes the supremacy of men to whom the presumably inferior women must submit.

The research also found that both men and women may miss work due to domestic violence. In addition, children may miss school. In some cases, the woman flees the home.

According to the research, the household earns less while spending more. When a woman who experiences violence goes to the police, her estimated out of pocket cost is Shs 17,900. When she seeks medical attention, she spends Shs 19,300, and Shs 6,300 when she turns to local council courts.

Local council courts, while not always addressing the root causes of violence, give the woman a chance to express her grievances. In line with cultural ethos, local councils emphasize reconciliation.

Besides the physical and emotional effects, women, men and children lose about Shs 3bn per year in earnings. The research puts the annual costs for individual health care at Shs 12.1bn while costs due to service providers like police, health care providers, LCs, and shelters for dealing with domestic violence cases is Shs 37.6bn.

Under the Domestic Violence Act, government has a responsibility to provide shelter to women and children who suffer from violence. However, since it was passed in 2009, the Domestic Violence Act remains a set of beautiful ideas that are hardly implemented.

The research demonstrates that in the first year of properly implementing the Act, it would cost Shs 6.4bn - a substantial amount considering Uganda's current expenditure on social development is less than Shs 40bn. The research predicts that in order to implement the Act, this amount would have to increase by at least 20%.

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