Uganda: Violence against Women and Information Communication Technologies




Uganda’s national
constitution guarantees freedom of expression, provides for
gender equality and affirmative action for women and
outlaws discrimination based on sex. But enacting laws is slow and
on going. The National Gender Policy recommends gender mainstreaming
as a strategy for addressing gender imbalances. Uganda also
has a National Equal Opportunities Policy. It has ratified
CEDAW and the Beijing Platform. Of a total population of over 32
million people, there are an estimated 8 million mobile subscribers
in Uganda and 2 million PC internet users but no gender-disaggregated
statistics are available.
Violence against
women: Traditional and extended family systems may provide checks
and balances that ensure women’s security of tenure but they can
also threaten women’s safety and security. Cultural practices
include female genital mutilation, early marriage, widow inheritance,
forceful property grabbing from widows and orphans. Domestic violence
prevalence is estimated at 57% and sexual violence at
61%. The majority of the violence against women is committed
by an intimate partner. Twenty-four percent of
women say their first sexual intercourse was forced against their
will. Paying bride price, which is still widely practiced in Uganda,
is used to legitimise domestic violence against women. Ongoing
military violence in Northern Uganda sees women experiencing rape and
related social and health diseases.
VAW and ICTs: Privacy invasion through SMS stalking
and monitoring and control by spouses is
growing. Men control women’s use of mobile phones and give or
withhold permission to their wives to use them, when and how. The
link between mobile phones and killing of women are
not incidents in isolation. Some women have acquired two SIM
cards to forestall domestic violence. This is a
sign of women’s empowerment as telephones provide a means through
which to break male control by opening contacts to the outside world.
Women use mobiles to contact police
officers in the event of domestic violence. Women’s organisations
use the internet in combination with TV, radio, newspapers and other
print media to highlight VAW. Sexual minorities have a presence
on the internet to articulate their concerns
members and raise awareness.
Uganda’s ICT
policy emphasises private-sector-led
growth. This implies that government theoretically plays only a
regulatory role leaving actual ICT development to private firms.
Uganda’s National ICT Policy has gender provisions but the absence
of a gender sensitive monitoring and evaluation mechanism makes it
difficult to implement such provisions. The
Rural Communications Development Policy
providing for the
establishment of the Rural ICT Access Fund is totally gender blind.
Information on the
intersection of VAW and ICT is still scanty though there are
emerging sources and anecdotes. Three draft laws relating
to ICTs pay limited attention to gender in general and do
not address gender-based violence. Cybercrime laws are just
being proposed, with the Computer Misuse Bill criminalising child
pornography but ignoring adult pornography. There is more focus on
child protection online than on issues of violence against women.
Recommendations
For
civil society: carry out ICT policy
advocacy to ensure that all national ICT-related
policies respond to gender needs; promote strategic use of ICTs to
combat VAW in educational institutions; forge a strong public-private
partnership around issues of VAW; promote use of mobile phones in
reporting VAW and providing safety and services; train domestic
violence advocates in the use of technology; conduct deep and nuanced
research into connection between VAW and ICTs
For
government: support reports including
provision of toll free call; explore working with law enforcement
agencies to track people that use ICTs to perpetuate VAW while
ensuring that surveillance will not be used to abuse freedoms and
women’s privacy in particular; recognise that VAW is
anchored within the broader societal systems that privilege men over
women; put in place ways of enabling women to acquire the
technologies they need and use them as they wish.
Publication date: 
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Year of publication: 
2009