Civil Society Organisations have said the fight against gender-based violence is still a tall order, noting that it is high time government increased funding especially towards community mobilisation and mindset change.
Addressing journalists at the commemoration of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence under the theme “UNiTE! Activism to end violence against women and girls”, Elizabeth Ampairwe, the programs director for Forum for Women in Democracy(FOWODE) said where there have been effort by government to establish a gender sensitive legal and policy framework, and in particular for putting in place specific laws against gender based violence, the vice has continued to thrive.
“According to the Police annual crime report for 2021, a total of 17,533 domestic violence cases; 1,486 cases of rape; 14,570 cases of defilement, and 16,373 sex-related crimes were registered last year. We need to bear in mind that many cases remain unreported due to stigma, the huge dependence on perpetrators for survival, intimidation, accessibility,” Ampairwe said.
She explained that while these numbers are worrying on their own, what is more terrifying is the prosecution rates which are a direct indicator of the low access to justice for survivors of gender based violence.
She cited the police annual crime report for 2021 that indicated that only 1,640 (9.3%) of domestic violence cases were taken to court and only 464 (2.6%) cases secured convictions whereas only 667 rape suspects (44.8%) of the total cases were charged in court with a mere 25 (1.7%) convictions secured.
According to the FOWODE programs director, while the National Development Plan 3 recognises the need for mindset change and combating gender based violence to ensure full participation of women and girls in development, the structures mandated with this role are grossly underfunded.
“Reduction of negative cultural practices and attitudes is one of the key mandates of the Community Mobilization and Mindset Change programme, and its implementation largely lies under the auspices of Community Based Services department (CBS) at Local Government level. However, the department is grossly underfunded and suffers understaffing challenges,”Ampairwe said.
She noted that the community based services departments have a 49.5% staffing gap yet in the financial year 2021/22 government only allocated shs7.64 billion for community mobilization and campaign programs shared across more than 176 local governments.
While Civil Society Organizations have endeavoured to supplement government’s role with programs such as mass civic education, male engagement, our reach is insufficient and the gross underfunding of Community Based Services departments leaves them unable to fulfil on their key mandate of reducing negative cultural practices and attitudes.”
According to Emmanuel Kashaija, the Program Manager in charge of Gender and Economic Justice at FOWODE,the glaring gaps in access to justice point to significant inadequacies in the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS).
“Key institutions such as the Child and Family Protection Unity (CFPU) of Police and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions are severely under-funded, which limits their ability to fulfil their mandate. A 2020 on assessment on financing to SGBV supported by UNWOMEN under the spotlight initiative revealed that besides the Ministry of Gender, the proportion of the budget allocated to violence against women and girls for ministries, departments ,agencies and local government is below 5%,”Kashaija noted.
“Most agencies with key mandates on gender based violence have funding gaps. For example, the office of the DPP has a funding gap of shs11.19 billion for the financial year 2021/22 in operational shortfalls in the prosecution of Serious and complex cases. This challenge is further compounded by the conditional nature of funding to Local Governments which undermines their discretionary powers to allocate resources to interventions on violence against women and girls and elimination of harmful practices.”
The CSOs say it is high time government prioritized the recruitment of staff under the Community Based Services departments in local governments to at least 70% in the short term to enable them achieve on the citizen mobilisation mandate to gradually contribute to the reduction of negative cultural practices and attitudes in society.
“Government should gradually increase allocations for the community mobilisation and mindset change function from the current shs7.64 billion to at least shs10bn in the next financial year,” said Rahom Maria Bukirwa, the head of advocacy and communications at the Women’s Probono Initiative.
According to the CSOs, government ought to strengthen the mandate of key institutions responsible for gender based violence prevention, mitigation and management
“Government should revise the chart of accounts to introduce a specific budget code where all resources and expenses for violence against women and girls can be tagged. This will greatly improve on the ability to plan for and track gender based violence resources for consistent reporting,” said FOWODE’s Elizabeth Ampairwe.
“There is need for earmarking and allocation of an adequate budget for the Child and Family Protection Unit (CFPU) of Police to effectively track, investigate and assist in prosecution of gender based violence related cases. We propose that the Child and Family Protection Unit (CFPU) is integrated in the new sub-county based policing system to ease access to justice for survivors of gender based violence.”