In former Yugoslavia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo etc, rape has widely been indiscriminately deployed as a “weapon” of war. Zainab (36), a refugee staying at Kyangwali Refugee Camp in Uganda once narrated her ordeal to an official of UNHCR of how she was gang raped together with her 12-year old daughter by 10 Congolese militias after they made her watch her husband die.
Here in Uganda, it is not those with guns but those with briefcases who are today accused of grisly gang rape.
The country is gripped by the rise in systematic incidents of gross sexual violence. Ironically, amidst sharp rise in the number of prostitutes in all major towns.
In Uganda, at least 21 girls are defiled daily. Official figures reveal that over 7,690 cases of defilement were reported to police in 2011. ANPPCAN Uganda further reports that between 2009-2011, police received 22,614 defilement cases. Over 628 children are defiled monthly countrywide. These are statistics of those cases which were reported, many more victims suffer in silence.
Not so long ago, a primary six pupil aged 14 was waylaid by her attackers on her way to school in broad daylight and later gang raped by four males in Kawempe division, Kampala.
Grace Nakasa, a resident of Soroti district recounts how she was raped by 12 men at different times infecting her with HIV. Through the hard life battles of recovering from such gruesome ordeals, she now encourages fellow women to stand strong and struggle to live another day.
The latest case to shock the country is the one where 5 Pakistani nationals working with Yuasa are being accused of tying a 23-year old Ugandan lady with a wire before gang raping and performing sexual offences against the order of nature (sodomised) for a period of about 2 months.
Yuasa Motor Agency claims this was a relationship gone sour. It has also further been reported that the lady registered a complaint against her “boyfriend” after he allegedly “abandoned” her after sodomizing her repeatedly.
I don’t know whether we shall ever know what exactly happened in that house over the 2-months period but what we know is that a young girl’s life has been seriously dented. What we also know is that she must get justice and such cowardly acts should not have a place in our society.
The victim reported this case to police in July 2013. This is October and it’s just about a week since the first suspects in the case were apprehended after public outrage following extensive media coverage.
Questions have been asked about how such a case was shelved for all this long. Bribery claims litter all around the case just like in many other cases in our criminal justice system. Further, the life of the victim has been threatened if she dared pursue this case.
The quest for justice has apparently started in earnest and thanks to the media, FIDA Uganda, ActionAid Uganda, NGO Forum, Uwonet and some gallant Ugandans like Nicholas Opiyo, Eunice Musiime of NGO Forum, the CEO of FIDA, Jacqueline Asiimwe, Edward Church, FIDA’s Munduru Mercy, good people in our police force who have taken time to fast track this investigation and many more.
But in a criminal justice system where victims of sexual offences rarely find justice – many cases never lead to successful prosecution, conviction rate is very poor, lack of timely medical examination, complex to sustain strong case given the nature of evidence necessary – many victims have resorted to suffer in silence.
We know that the law provides that rape just like defilement is a felony that fetches a death sentence on conviction but why is this stiff prescribed punishment not acting as a deterrent?
Proving a case of sexual violence in court requires that the prosecution adduces incontrovertible evidence which will “leave the judge without any shadow of doubt” that the suspect(s) raped his victim.
But how do you do this when many victims for one reason or another fail to undergo medical examination within 24 hours after the fact? How do you do it when the country does not have adequate basic DNA testing facilities to ascertain whether the semen found on the victim indeed came from the suspect?
The current committal system is also not helping. Grave cases of sexual violence tend to lag on for several years before they can be heard. There have been incidences where victims and witnesses have either relocated, died or simply lost interest in the cases before the real trial starts. As a consequence, many suspects have been let to go scot free by courts due to lack of evidence despite the fact that indeed, the crime took place.
Why can’t we have special sessions for such cases which have sufficient evidence to ensure that justice is swiftly done?
The Police Criminal Intelligence Unit claims that most rape cases occur due to a surge in alcohol and consumption of narcotic drugs. In this instant case, the victim recounts seeing the perpetrators with cocaine. We know this but still choose to ignore taking prosecution of people found in possession of classified drugs seriously. Most cases of drug abuse often get dismissed from court for want of prosecution due to lack of evidence.
Corruption manifested in bribery tendencies and underfunding leading to the institutions being understaffed have compounded the entire problem.
These loopholes in our criminal justice system have provided a safe haven to rapists and defilers in this country. They know they can do it and then somehow get away with it because others have in the past.
For our criminal justice system to function properly, all the five components – law enforcement (police), prosecution, defense attorneys (mostly legal aid), courts, and corrections (prisons) have to adequately play their role.
This case is not a one off. Gang rape and all forms of sexual violence against many Uganda girls are happening countrywide and it is quickly turning into a form of organised crime. In Kampala, areas such as Muyenga, Kiwatule, and Bunga have been singled out. It is time for our legal systems to take these cases seriously and make it expensive to commit such horrific acts.