KAMPALA, Uganda – Violence, especially against women in Uganda, is a rampant vice that has claimed several lives. Violence takes several forms that may include sexual, emotional, psychological, economic and most commonly physical violence.
According to a 2020 report by Uganda police, a total of 16,242 cases of sexual gender based violence were reported to police by the end of June of the same year. The report also indicated that most of the victims of defilement (4,822) were aged between 15 and 17 years, 64 were between 0 and eight years, while 1,446 were aged 9 and 14 years old.
Among women, those that should be taken care of most by community like widows, violence still exists in various forms especially sexual and physical violence.
A 2015 report by International Justice Mission indicates that 40% of widows in Uganda experience actual or threats of grabbing of their property and in most cases, the perpetrators of such violence are the relatives of their deceased husbands.
These widows also experience sexual violence as many are forced to marry a male relative, commonly the brother to the deceased, as a fulfilment of culture but mostly due to the greed for the deceased’s property since the practice of widow inheritance enables the male relative to inherit their late relative’s wealth under the guise of being care takers.
Many other kinds of violence, especially sexual violence, occur in communities- for example child marriage that has robbed many girls of their future and dreams by turning them to wives at a tender age and consequently into teenage mothers.
As the easiest and quickest source of help to people experiencing violence of any kind, call centres are being used to support survivors of violence. These call centres enable timely intervention by duty bearers like police and health workers.
In 2014, the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development (MGLSD), in partnership with UNICEF and other stakeholders, established a toll free number 116 (Sauti 116) as a child helpline aimed at protecting children from violence.
Similarly, the Uganda police established a centre line 0800199195 to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week to register cases of Gender Based Violence starting in May 2020.
In order to even further gear these efforts, Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET) set up a call centre to offer emergency response and support through which people can call when they feel unsafe or experience violence. The 24/7 toll free line is 0800333123. Through it, hundreds of women and girls have received instant help ranging from evacuation from their tormentors, counselling and among others.
“Several of the women and girls we have at the Shelter home have reached us through our toll free help line. The call centre was created during the time of the total national lockdown, when women were fully trapped with their abusers. To date, the call centre is a major tool in reaching survivors of violence across the country.” Said Ms. Rhonah Babweteera the Head of Violence Against Women Prevention at UGANET.