Gender Based Violence (GBV) is an umbrella term used to describe any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will on the basis of unequal relations between women and men, as well as through abuse of power.

According to the Director for Gender, Labor and Social Development, Ms. Jane Mpangi, GBV in particular, sexual and physical violence is widespread in Uganda and is mainly committed against women and girls

During a presentation titled “GENDER BASED VIOLENCE- Current Situation, Challenges and way forward”, at the recently concluded Religious leaders’ high level review meeting on HIV/AIDS, Gender-Based Violence and Maternal Mortality, Ms. Mpangi said that GBV has been increasingly recognized around the country as a grave challenge for public health, development and a violation of human rights.

In Uganda, she said, GBV perpetrated against women and girls is an extremely complex issue caused by societal, economic and cultural factors. It occurs in forms such as Physical Violence, Psychological/ Emotional Violence, Sexual Violence, Treatment of women as commodities (includes trafficking in women and girls for Sexual exploitation), Economic Violence and Harmful cultural practices e.g. FGM and early marriage.

According to Ms. Mpangi, currently, Gender Based Violence (GBV) is mainly as a result of power inequalities between men and women.

The Uganda Demographic Health Survey (UDHS) 2011, indicates that 56.1% of women and 55.4% of men aged between15-49 have experienced physical violence, while27.8% of women and 8.9% of men have experienced sexual violence.

Effects of GBV to families

GBV escalades the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STDs among the married and unmarried persons and it is a major obstacle to development, building of human capital and this affects productivity and economic growth.

According to Ms. Mpangi, it increases the vulnerability of women, leading to their impoverishment, their families, societies and hence nations.

“It undermines family stability, thus eroding the core of society and increasing the vulnerability of children,” She said. Ms. Mpangi added that GBV increase incidences of unwanted pregnancies, thus leading to interrupted schooling, street children and aggravated poverty.

GBV also puts strain and burden on the social services, especially health as well as legal services and children within violence-affected households may experience mental and behavioral disorders including depression, anxiety and may have poorer performance at schools

Challenges in addressing GBV

Despite the enactment of laws such as the Domestic Violence Act 2010 and its regulations 2011, the prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation act 2010 and its regulations 2011, Guidelines for the Establishment and Management of GBV shelters 2013, the National Referral Pathway Guide for Prevention and Response to Gender Based Violence Cases in Uganda 2013 and the Employment Act 2006 and Sexual Harassment Regulations 2012; amongst others, there are still challenges in addressing GBV in Uganda today.

Ugandan is characterized by strong patriarchal beliefs that value male supremacy and women’s subordination. There are many underlying social/ cultural issues in society that perpetuate violence against women and girls, discrimination and subordination.

The enforcement of the laws that fight against GBV in Uganda today is limited by structural and financial constraints. Dichotomy behaviors in public and private spheres where leaders and the general public fail to walk the talk, also frustrates the efforts to address GBV.

In order to create a lasting solution to GBV in Uganda, Ms. Mpangi suggested that there is need to strengthen coordination of GBV through a multi sectoral approach, and also strengthen partnership with Faith Based Organizations (FBOs).

“Government will put emphasis on up-scaling interventions for addressing GBV in all its forms and manifestations,” she said. Ms. Mpangi also stressed the need for building capacity of the duty bearers to be able to respond to GBV, undertaking the Uganda Demography Health Survey UDHS (2016) with a module on GBV to obtain data and information on prevalence rates, and up grading the National Gender Based Violence Database to capture case management and also roll out to all Local Governments in the Country.