Kitgum, Pallisa registers surge in domestic violence cases during lockdown

Domestic Violence during COVID-19 lockdown
There has been an increase in domestic violence in Uganda during the lockdown.

Kitgum & Pallisa, Uganda |URN | Cases of domestic violence within rural and urban areas in Kitgum and Pallisa districts are on the rise. District officials say the surge is a direct result of the current COVID-19 lockdown that has left many people trapped in their homes.

Kitgum district senior probation and welfare officer Michael Ogweng says that a total of 415 cases related to domestic violence were reported to probation and police officers between April and May 2020, as the government maintained a lockdown to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the 415 cases, 174 were reported in the month of April while 237 cases were reported in May in the nine sub-counties and three divisions within Kitgum Municipality.

Ogweng says the hostile environment at home where abusive parents have been trapped in the same home has seen transgression of violence to children a matter that has become alarming.

For instance, between April and May alone, there were 49 cases of child neglect, 17 cases of child desertion, 18 cases of suspected defilement and four child disappearances.

In one of the cases, a primary six pupil of Akworo Primary school in Labongo Amida Ssub-county died early last month when her father bartered her for reportedly visiting her boyfriend. Ogweng says their team of community development officers are currently conducting door to door sensitization, counselling and mediation to see to an end the vices.

Labongo Amida sub county chairperson Wilfred Nyeko told Uganda Radio Network in an interview that they have received a maximum of seven cases related to domestic violence on a daily basis during the lockdown. He notes that most of the cases emanate from quarrels, physical abuse and child abuse fueled by conflicts between couples at home.

According to Nyeko, most of the cases have been handled at the sub-county level while capital domestic violence cases were forwarded for prosecution to the police.

Meanwhile in Pallisa district, a survey carried out by Action Aid has revealed that the district registered 150 cases of gender based violence during the period of March and May.

The report sanctioned by the Action Aid Pallisa office released on Sunday 14th shows that in the month of March, 10 cases (all women) were reported, 57 cases with 37 for women and 20 for men were reported in the month of April, 59 cases were reported for May and 24 cases have been reported at police stations since the beginning of June.

It also shows that the sub counties of Opwateta, Apopong and Gogonyo are the ones with high violence rates in the district of Pallisa.

Shibah Namulindwa, a programs manager at Action Aid Pallisa said the cases of gender based violence in only three months has led the increase to 80% compared to 45% in the previous year.

Namulindwa adds that many cases of gender based violence have not been reported due to the COVID-19 lockdown which restricted people from moving to different places and offices to report.

John Michael Ogwalinga, the Pallisa district probation officer says that during the three months’ lockdown, he received 25 cases of women and men who complain of being abandoned by their spouses and being battered.

Ogwalinga attributed the increasing cases of violence to the income cut for most men who have been bread winners for their families.

Cyrus Samson Omara, the Regional Police Commander for North Bukedi said that many families in the region still believe in the old culture where men have greater authority than women saying most men in the district have subjected their women to torture claiming to be exercising their powers.

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“We always conduct community policing on gender based violence in village areas of Pallisa but men seem to be stubborn, they say they are exercising their supreme powers and some of the cases reported fail to reach to the courts of laws since married couples tend to forgive each other when they get to the police,” he said.

John Michael Okurut, the Pallisa district LCV chairperson, reiterated that most women when they report their husbands to police, they again chicken out and forgive them before reaching to the courts of law.

He said activists should come up to sensitize and educate the communities to know the dangers of violence and how to control it in their areas saying government alone cannot manage to eradicate violence in communities.

According to Statistics from the Ministry of gender, labor and social development between the period March 30 and April 28, a total of 3,280 cases of violence were reported to police countrywide. This was in addition to 283 cases of violence against children.