The Problem of Domestic Violence in Uganda

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Robert Lockridge, despite being 34 years old, still endures the devastating long-term effects left by witnessing domestic violence at home, displaying the fact that the damage inflicted on those closely associated with the victim is immeasurable in its own regard. Lockridge, to this day, bears a vivid recollection of the day his abusive father held him, his mother, and grandmother at gunpoint for approximately 90 minutes in his drunken stupor. Witnessing such a traumatic incident followed with severe PTSD and self-loathing for his “inability to prevent the situation”. Moreover, he dealt with low self-esteem throughout his adolescence which continued into adulthood. Doing everything in his willpower to distinguish himself from his alcoholic parents who neglected to provide him a role model to look up to, it shaped his role as both a father and a husband as he was forced to look for a safe harbor elsewhere. Alas, Lockridge is merely one of 275 million children around the globe who must carry this life-long burden.

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As an extended fact, children are just one entity in a larger framework called family. The literal definition of family is not solely limited to a group of related individuals, residing in a single household, rather, it’s a means to feel safe, have mutual respect, and a trustworthy confidante. However, the phenomena of domestic abuse occur in households which defy the very basic elements that form a family unit. An abuser’s driving force is their unrelenting urge to dominate the life of their partner, whether it be due to an inferiority complex, anger management issues, jealousy etc. External aspects contribute to the cause of domestic abuse as the normalization of domestic violence in a community, witnessing abuse at home during adolescence, takes a toll on the mindset of the perpetrator. Thus, the victims, and those closely associated with them, reside in an inescapable psychological prison.

Uganda, despite having a fairly solid legislative framework consisting of “The Uganda Domestic Violence Act” which aims to condemn domestic violence as well as safeguard the victims, defining the term itself in a broad manner, this African country is notorious for the normalization and somewhat indifference to this concerning epidemic. With respect to the data accumulated by the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) 2016, 5642 married women between the age range of 15-49 years have ever/within the span of 12 months, experienced a form of domestic violence. This further highlights the severity of this issue as the repercussions of domestic abuse not only endanger the victim but also those closely associated, from a myriad of perspectives, not solely limited to human rights.

Moreover, the gender-biased policy framework favoring men, societal ideology and customs such as bride price, perpetuate the age-old tradition of a husband having sole ownership over his wife, lead to fewer reported cases and social withdrawal as the victim deteriorates both mentally and physically, thus, those dependent on the victim suffer too. The phenomena of juvenile misconduct is rampant with the approximate involvement of 1740 children, as young as merely 16 years old, notedly one of the leading causes being an unstable and hostile family environment, as domestic abuse warps the mentality of a child with violence depicted as a household norm. Furthermore, a rise has been observed in the presence of HIV/AIDS within the country from 6.4% to 6.7% between 2005 and 2011 as those who bear a marital relationship constitute 50% of the 500,000 new infections recorded. This may be linked to domestic violence as due to the power imbalance between the two genders often leads to marital rape inflicted upon victim by an infected spouse and inability of the woman to acquire information in regards to the threats and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Thus, women must endure the psychological torment that comes along with it for fear that receiving treatment or confrontation would result in them being shunned from society itself, abandoned and neglected by their partner as well as a broken family keen to preserve their dignity. Moreover, 9% of the women who encountered domestic abuse sustained severe injuries and were unable to work while 13% were temporarily unfit to perform household chores. Thus, not only is this mentally scarring for adolescents for their inability to resolve the situation but also leads to neglect as 2.2% of the children reportedly didn't attend school due to violent home environment.

The inability of the guardians to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their children results in them seeking solace elsewhere, particularly in drugs such as cocaine, tobacco and marijuana to name a few, leading to an overall downward spiral that accompanies substance abuse within teenagers especially.

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