There has been an escalation in cases of sexual and gender-based violence in Uganda due to COVID-19 pandemic is worrying. According to a Survey undertaken by the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), a total of 16,242 cases of gender-based violence (GBV) were reported to the Uganda Police for the period January-June 2020; 46.8% were cases of domestic violence; 43.2% were cases of defilement and 5.6% were cases of rape.
A total of 161 cases of murders resulting from domestic violence were recorded. Majority (86%) of the survivors of gender-based violence were women and girls.
This was revealed by Peace Regis Mutuuzo the Minister of State for Gender and Culture while addressing the press about the 2021 International Women’s Day celebrations slated for Monday 8th March 2021.
The global theme for this year is “Women in leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.” The theme celebrates the efforts by women in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the theme selected for the national celebration is “Building on Women’s Strength for a Better Future in a COVID-19 World.”
Minister Mutuuzo noted that it is over one year since COVID -19 was declared a global pandemic and a public health crisis; it has been associated with strict lockdown measures to protect our right to life despite the several challenges we have encountered and are still encountering.
“This year’s theme highlights the effects of COVID 19 on women and girls and also seeks to generate a national dialogue on the urgent need for a gender responsive National COVID- 19 Response Plan to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on women and all communities in Uganda. The theme equally highlights the role and contribution of women in the efforts to manage and also recover from the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic” the Minister says.
She noted that GBV has undermined girls and women’s physical, sexual, and mental health and has had wider implications for the economic and social wellbeing of families and communities.
“The levels of teenage pregnancy and child marriages in Uganda have increased with the closure of schools and learning institutions at all levels. Children have been exposed to domestic violence, drugs and substance abuse, sexually abuse, loss of loved ones and are now traumatized” she said.
This year’s National celebration of the IWD will be marked at State House, Entebbe and His Excellency, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni will be the Chief Guest. Several leaders from the women’s movement will be in attendance and it will be telecast live on the different radio and television stations and I encourage you to tune in.
The minister also raised concerns suffered by women, explaining that they have been constrained on accessing health services which at the same time been over-stretched and is disproportionately impacting on several vulnerable and marginalized groups.
“For instance, Antenatal Care visits attendance decreased by 7%; HIV positive pregnant women receiving ARVs declined by 12%, HIV Exposed Infants (HEI) who received ARVs at birth declined by 18%, Health facilities deliveries declined by 10% to mention but a few. This has serious implications to health and wellbeing of all Ugandans” she noted.