Fighting GBV, Inequalities will reduce HIV/AIDS transmission – Care International

By Ankunda Biriiso Catherine

Care International Uganda, a none profit organization that seeks a world of hope, tolerance, and social justice, has called on all stakeholders and every Ugandan to fight Gender-Based Violence – GBV which will, in turn, reduce the new cases of HIV/AIDS transmission. #WhisperEyeNews

Care International on Thursday, December 1 joined the rest of the global community to observe the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence under the theme “UNiTE! Activism to end violence against women and girls”.

The international campaign focuses on the call for the elimination of all forms of Gender-Based Violence and culminates in a celebration of International Human Rights Day on 10th December.

Ms. Lilian Ssengoba – Head Justice Program at Care International says that 1 in 3 women in the whole world has suffered a form of violence, whereas the same has happened to 1 in 2 children in Uganda.

“Gender-based violence equally affects people at work. It affects productivity but also if violence happens at home, it affects productivity at work and in the end, as a country, we cannot achieve our national development plan.”

“So, we are calling upon all Ugandans to walk this journey, come out and speak. If you are at work, go back home and talk to your children,” she urged.

Ms. Ssengoba also asked different originations to come up with policies that create a workplace that is safe for workers but also has counseling services.

She also thinks that if the government invests more in equipping the departments that provide services addressing gender-based violence like the police and community development office which is mandated in creating mindset change, it will great impact.

Over the past years, Uganda has made progress toward closing gender gaps in education. Enrolment of girls to boys in primary school is at par though fewer girls than boys complete secondary and tertiary education, particularly in science and technology fields. Nationally, female literacy is lower than that of males due to cultural, religious, and socioeconomic factors.

According to Care International, Uganda’s labor force is highly occupied by men although women have a high rate of participation at 76%.

Data shows that women in public sector employment are at 37% whereas those in private sector employment stand at 29%.
The study also shows that unemployment is highly affecting women at 11.7% compared to men who are at 8. 4%.
However, Care International commended the government for improving gender participation at all decision-making levels, reducing gender gaps, and implementing targeted laws or policies to protect women’s rights.
“In addition to ratifying CEDAW in 1985, the 1995 Uganda Constitution recognizes the equality of women and men and makes provision for affirmative action. Uganda has an established national gender machinery.”
Ms. Glory Mkandawire – USAID Social and Behaviour Change Activity says that although the world has greatly improved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, a lot needs to be done.

“Our communities need to be gender-based violence-free. In terms of HIV, many countries in the world and different organizations have worked so hard over so many years since we had HIV. However, there are still other things we need to wake on.”

“For example, we are still seeing a lot of infections among young people, especially girls, so we need to intensify our interventions there. We also need to make sure all our children are born HIV-free. It’s also very important that we address gender issues and that we meet everyone, not just a group of people,” she called.

Mr. Edtone Babu – Program Manager at Care International revealed that one of the forms of violence against women is economic violence. He says that usually, a woman and a man are doing the same job but a man is paid more. He adds that in some instances, men are in control of the income of the women.

“There are cases of men owning ATM cards of their wives. We know that without involving men, this struggle cannot work. We work to involve men and create dialogue at the household level.”

Mr. Babu says not only women, but men also face gender-based violence but “most of them don’t talk because they think it’s unmanly to say you were beaten by your wife.”

He noted that usually, emotional abuse is the biggest for men where they are abused by their wives.
He says that HIV is another cause of violence in a family especially when there is no communication.

“In most of the families, when there is HIV unless there’s communication, you get a lot of fights, accusing each other of bringing the disease which creates violence,” he said, adding “Also, there are people who cannot take their drugs because they have not disclosed at household level and that affects adherence and in some way it promotes violence. Where there is communication, where people are disclosing and psychosocial support, we can fight HIV and gender-based violence.”

The study shows that GBV drivers include gender-discriminatory attitudes and practices. GBV risks arise from shelter and livelihoods, intersecting identities such as women, adolescent girls, LGBTQI individuals, persons with disabilities, sex workers, or male survivors of sexual violence.

Gender-based violence and protection

Whilst rates have decreased, data indicates that GBV remains high in Uganda.
Accordingly, 51% of men and 52% of women have experienced physical violence whereas 22% of women and 8% of men have faced sexual violence.

Also, data shows that 11% of expectant mothers have experienced physical violence.
Reported cases of partner-controlling behaviors stand at 37% of women compared to 33% of men.
Experienced physical/sexual/emotional violence is at 44% men and 56% women.

Giving a keynote address, Ms. Esther Nampijja Regina – Head of Human Resource – Care International Uganda said that about 95% had experienced physical or sexual violence, or both, by partners or non-partners, since the age of 15 years.

She noted that about half of the women in Uganda (47%) face economic violence and two in every ten women (23%) are forced to give their earnings to their partners whereas one in every ten women (10%) gave up paid jobs because their partners refused then to work.

According to the Uganda Police Annual Crime Report (2021), a total of 16,242 cases of GBV and Violence against Children were reported country-wide of which 8,065 were cases of domestic violence, 6,838 were cases of defilement, 749 were cases of rape, 223 were aggravated domestic violence leading to death, 144 were cases of indecent assault and 39 were cases of child abduction.

Ms. Nampijja noted that GBV is rooted in gender inequality, saying that without equality, women will continue to be at risk of violence.
“This is true for own offices. Addressing the root causes of GBV can improve incomes and reduce food insecurity. Women’s empowerment results in improved food outcomes for women and can increase overall household resilience to food insecurity.”

She says that in Uganda, teenage pregnancy remains unacceptably high at 1 in 4 adolescent girls which she says was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic due to the closure of schools.

She also highlighted the new emerging forms of violence precipitated by information communication technologies (ICTs) such as cybersexual abuse and stalking.

At the workplace, Nampijja says violence and harassment are global problems, particularly affecting women.

“Some estimates suggest that as many as 2 billion working women have experienced sexual harassment. About nine in every ten women in Uganda (86%) had ever experienced an act of violence at the workplace within the 12 months preceding the survey. Verbal abuse was the most frequent form of workplace violence (84%). You could be one of the statistics.”

“It is a major barrier to women’s access to economic opportunity and decent work. GBV also has broad social and economic costs across societies, including costs on public services, lost income, and productivity,” she said

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