“Orange the world: END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN NOW!”
Action for Development (ACFODE) opinion piece for the16 days of activism
Women and girls across different countries around the world, rich and poor, have encountered violations in all spheres of their lives including economic, social, and political. However, as women’s rights activists, we strongly believe that this narrative can change. Women too need to enjoy their fundamental human rights.
Although Violence against women is largely attributed to factors such as the misuse of power and patriarchy, there are approaches such as the model couple approach, that when embraced can address such! A family is the initial point of socialization and the upbringing of children has a great influence on their perceptions about life including relations, hence addressing violence at the family level can contribute to the elimination of violence in the community and country as a whole. As the saying goes, a family that prays together stays together. Therefore, if couples come together to plan, make decisions, and carry out activities together, they will be able to live peacefully and harmoniously together with their children and other family members.
A man must not always demonstrate his dominance and assert his presence in the home in order to be respected by his wife or children. Some men have fears that, when they are disrespected in their home, they will also be a disgrace to their clan and become a laughing stock at the bars and in the entire community. However, a real man should respect his spouse irrespective of what others say. This is why it is also important to engage the men in the work we do to eliminate Gender Based Violence. We cannot talk of achieving gender equality if we only engage women and leave out the men. We need men to appreciate gender issues and be able to challenge the negative social norms and practices that violate women’s rights.
In many cultures in Uganda, patriarchy characterized by male dominance manifested in the negative gender norms and practices relegates women to the subordinate status in the home. However, women too are human beings who deserve to be respected and treated with dignity in society. Women play a critical part in building the nation through their triple roles of production, reproduction and the community role. Although some cultures say that women should be submissive and endure for the sake of their children and maintaining their marriages, this narrative should change because oftentimes women have lost their lives due to violence because of the norm that ‘a woman makes a marriage and she should be able to constantly bend low for her husband’.
Women’s support for wife-beating is not surprising given that women are socialized and taught to be submissive to their husbands and that taking care of the children, cooking as well as sexual provision is an obligation for women in marital relations. In addition to the misuse of power by men, some women believe that beating their male counterparts is a sign of love. However, we believe that a man who loves his spouse should not beat her. You cannot hurt what you love, just like you cannot harm your own body. Many women have fallen victim to such circumstances since they do not know how to protect and defend themselves and their children due to ignorance and limited knowledge about the laws and policies that protect their rights. Even the structures that have been put in place to enforce these laws and policies are sometimes corrupt or male dominated hence not serving justice to women. Therefore, such structures as the police, local council courts, and health systems need to be engaged in gender responsive service delivery in order for them to be sensitive to issues of women in both public and private spaces.
Still on the issue of culture, some delicacies like eggs, liver, goat’s meat, and chicken are not meant for women and girls but are reserved for only boys and men. We strongly disagree with this because women too have a right to food and more so, such foods are very nutritious and their consumption contributes significantly on the health of women, expectant and lactating mothers so they should not be denied to women.
When it comes to relationships, studies such as the UDHS 2016 have shown that more than two-thirds of women who have been in marital relationships have experienced some form of violence by an intimate partner. This is partly due to misuse of power and lack of knowledge about the existing laws that protect women from such abuses. In addition, there are bills that are still being debated and we believe that when enacted as laws, they will protect women for example the Sexual Offences Bill. Nevertheless, men need to understand that women are involved in most of the domestic chores and by the time they get to bed, they are too tired to engage in sex. Men should therefore understand and help out women with domestic chores. Both partners need to keep the relationship interesting by adopting sweet names, exchanging gifts, and asking for consent to enjoy sex.
Until gender-based violence is eliminated in communities across the world, many of the ambitious targets set by the global community through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to provide safe and supportive learning environments, to end violence against women and girls in all settings, and to achieve gender equality, will not be realized. The 16 Days of activism, therefore, are an opportunity to unite with partners around the world and reflect on what we can each do in our communities and in our own lives to eliminate the disproportionate violence faced by women and girls. We, therefore, call upon the Government of Uganda and all stakeholders to promote a comprehensive approach that protects women and girls from violence. This approach includes laws, and the provision of services that are accessible to all survivors, including medical and psychological support, housing, jobs, protection of livelihoods, and legal advice.
Action for Development (ACFODE)