Civil society organisations have blamed the rampant domestic violence in northern Uganda on the failure of programmes to control HIV/Aids.
Rocky Oyoo, an official with the American Refugee Committee, in Gulu, said domestic violence makes it difficult for partners to speak out on issues such as condom use and abstinence. He told The Observer that the government and CSOs were focused on Abstinence, Being faithful and using a Condom strategy yet repeated abuse meant many women simply follow what a man wants.
The cases of domestic violence in Gulu are on the increase. Gulu regional referral hospital registered 129 cases of gender-based violence in 2009, 133 in 2011 and 198 in 2012, with the majority coming from poor families. The call comes as CSOs led by Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP) mark the 16 Days of Activism campaign to question violence against women, with a call on men and women to realise that HIV/Aids is part of the fight.
The campaign, held under the theme 'Question violence against women; start asking, start changing' started November 25 and was designed to continue through to December 1 (World Aids day), before concluding on December 10, which is Human Rights day.
CEDOVIP Executive Director Tina Musuya says the campaign should be an opportunity to change: "You can use your power to prevent violence against women in your community. Even small actions and words can make a difference."
CEDOVIP plans to reach out to the police leadership during the campaign to evaluate how they have been using the Domestic Violence Act. Musuya says they will also meet parliamentarians to lobby for the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act.
The days of activism come on the back of a battery of disturbing statistics. The 2011 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey shows that 59% of women experience violence, while the 2011 annual crime report shows that 463 women reported being raped and 7,542 girls had been defiled. This police report shows that 9,343 women experienced domestic violence.
CEDOVIP's latest report on the economic cost of domestic violence in Uganda shows individuals lose Shs 21.9bn in lost time and out-of-pocket costs to address the effects of domestic violence.
"For how long are we Ugandans going to shoulder this burden? ... now is the time to start changing," Deus Kiwanuka, a senior programme officer at CEDOVIP, says.