UGANDA: Gov't urged to tighten laws on domestic violence
KAMPALA, 14 August (PLUSNEWS) - The international organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) met Ugandan ministers on Thursday in an effort to urge the government to tighten up its laws on sexual violence against women.
The talks follow the release of a HRW study which shows a disturbing correlation between rape within marriage and the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus.
“The Ugandan government must take responsibility for the discrimination and violence so many of its female citizens routinely suffer,” the report said. “Much of Uganda’s progress in combating HIV/AIDS will be lost if the government continues to ignore the role of domestic violence.”
HRW researcher and author of the report, Lisa Karanja, told PlusNews that Uganda was chosen as a case study because it had already done so much to combat the HIV/AIDS virus. She said the report confirmed HRW’s suspicions that men raping their wives was a major factor in the transmission of HIV.
“On the basis of what we found we are going to expand the study soon, taking it next to Kenya,” she said.
The 77-page study documents the widespread existence of rape and brutal attacks on women by their husbands in Uganda.
Taking its cue from a sample of 120 women living with HIV, the report notes that many women are particularly vulnerable to being infected with the deadly virus because they lack the authority to refuse sex with their husbands or to insist on the use of condoms.
“We started with women who had HIV,” Karanja told PlusNews, “and we found that in Uganda some 41 percent of women with the virus have suffered domestic violence."
"In a lot of these interviews, the women said they had been too scared to get tested because they feared a violent backlash if their husbands found out,” she added.
She noted that part of the problem was a lack of legislation against domestic violence. “Laws and courts are not taking it nearly as seriously as they should because there’s just no legislation against domestic violence”.
Karanja said HRW was recommending that the government of Uganda act quickly, not just to change laws but to raise awareness of domestic violence and how it is spreading HIV/AIDS.
“The way the Ugandan government reacted to AIDS was amazing,” she said. “We want them to make the same effort in raising awareness about domestic violence.”
The government has had two bills in the pipeline since the 1990s whose aim is to curb domestic sexual offences, but neither has yet been passed.
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