Gender based violence: Do not suffer silently

Some acts of violent behaviour practices daily against fellow human beings make one wonder where the world is headed, SOLOMON MWIJE writes

For decades, gender-based violence (GBV) has been recognised as a violation of human rights and freedoms.

GBV is any violence directed to anyone on the basis of their gender, whether in private or public, resulting in physical, sexual, mental, or socio-economic harm or suffering.

Females disproportionately suffer more from violence compared to males because the gender stereotypes place them on the weaker side of the gender dichotomy.

According to CARE-Uganda (2010), 68 percent (more than two-thirds) of married women have suffered some form of GBV at the hands of their husbands.

With current policies and legal arrangements, the problem of GBV would be easily addressed, if it were not for the culture of silence still overshadowing openness about the issue.

It can be argued from the CARE-Uganda report, that any community, for example, an institution of higher learning, has students and staff members surviving but silently suffering from GBV. Those in universities mostly experience psychological and sexual violence compared to physical and socio-economic forms of violence.

GBV acts happen in lecture rooms, offices, hostels, students’ discussion groups outside lectures, fieldwork placements, and in homes.

Examples of acts of GBV among university students include but are not limited to: sex for marks, financial assistance with strings attached, indecent dressing, sexual harassment and abuse including rape, non-consensual touches, gender stereotypical comments, beatings and killings by partners and thugs in hostels, publishing sexually oriented content, among others.

Staff members, especially the new and young teaching staff, also often receive sexual advances from students.

According to the 2010 GBV analysis in schools by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the percentage of sexual assaults on boys ranged from 25 to 60 percent compared to 30 to 70 percent of girls. It was also noted that sexual assaults were experienced by 20 to 57 percent of female teachers and 15 to 58 percent                       of male teachers.

GBV often goes unreported for various reasons. Many fear to be turned away or be ashamed by university administrators, stigmatization, limited legal services, fear of retaliation by perpetrators, fear of getting their partners into trouble, dependence on partners and others believe it is  normal to bear GBV as part of relationships.

Males usually report less cases because of inferiority complex and statements such as, “be strong and behave like a man!”

To fight and end GBV, it is important to know your rights and understand the procedures of accessing and utilizing assistance services. GBV does not only affect the survivors but the perpetrators too.

I implore everyone in UCU, student or staff, to seek help without shame. Seeking help from relevant service providers is good for your health and wholeness. The UCU counselling department deserves recognition for training para-counsellors’ who empower both staff and students with useful skills for help when in need.

Furthermore, the UCU administration should design an institutional gender mainstreaming strategy to be able to address gender-related issues.

For “when justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers” (Proverbs 21:15).

The writer is a lecturer at the  Faculty of Social Sciences

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