PHOTO: Dr. Evelyn Akech
BY MARY NAKASI
WOMEN organisations fighting against gender based violence have called on government to be hard on fathers who defile their daughters, demanding that they be sentenced to life imprisonment as a lesson to others.
This was echoed by Dr. Evelyn Akech during a workshop for organisations fighting against gender based violence which was held at Imperial Royale Hotel on Friday.
Dr. Akech who is the Public Service International (PSI) sub regional secretary for East and West Africa.
Public Service International is a global trade union federation that mainly champions the workers’ rights in private and public sector but in most importantly, it deals in a number of things in terms of fighting against gender based violence, tax justice, also deal in issues of empowerment of young workers, among others.
According to Dr. Akech, cases of defilement and sexual harassment have increased during Covid-19 lock down.
She said, “We can have the community outreach and speak up against fathers who sexually harass their daughters, who defile them, but the first person that has got responsibility to protect its own citizens, to protect these girls is the government.”
Dr. Akech noted that, no matter how much they do as civil societies or as trade unions, not until the government puts in place mechanism to implement the existing law and fight this vice amongst men, daughters will continue to be raped, defiled or sexually harassed by their own fathers.
“Let the people who have committed incest be jailed for life, it’s enough. Others will learn from them. Why should a father sleep with his daughter, then people give an excuse that because he is a bread winner for the family, so he should therefore be let to walk scot-free yet he has destroyed her life?” Asked Dr. Evelyn Akech.
Refering it to an abomination, Dr. Akech said organisations fighting against domestic gender based violence will continue to have the community drive, talking about the incest.
She reminded participants that during old days, when a man defiled his daughter, he would stoned to death which is not a case today.
“Today, when a man defiles his own daughter, you hear people saying, ‘Let’s negotiate’. What has actually changed? It means as a society we are having moral decay. We need to go back. If there is a defiler in the community, let them be brought out of the community.” Dr. Akech told men and women who paricipated in this workshop. Among those present was Hon. Abdul Byakatonda.
Dr. Akech says, patriarch has been one of the key drivers in culture, in terms of increasing or promoting gender based violence.
“One thing we actually do when we have our participants, we help ask them to speak up and break the silence. We encourage them to preach about mind change in our societies. Like how do we change the culture that women are actually sex objects! It begins by us acknowledging that our culture has brought us this far. So one of the things we are actually discussing about is, how do we start the conversation beginning with our young boys? So that a young man grows up learning how to respect women.” Dr. Akech told members of press shortly after the workshop.
She revealed that they are starting with mind change, addressing the patriarchal nature of Africa and also, the cultural barriers that promote the issue of domestic gender based violence.
But at the same time, they want to applaud all the nationals that actually adopted what they refer to as the convection C190 and recommendation 206 which talks about ending violence in the world of work.
This convection C190 requires the governments intervention put in place enabling laws to strengthen the issues of gender based violence and also violence done at the world of work.
She acknowledged that Uganda has got very good laws. The challenge is actually, the implementation.
“Implementation is only going to be possible if all of us are willing to speak up. Most times, let’s appreciate it. You may see your co-worker being harassed but fear to speak-up. We want to call upon the people of this country and the globe at large, can we please break the silence and speak up? If one person is actually defiled, can we speak up and support that person instead of castigating them?” Asked Ms. Akech.
She noted that, If a woman says ‘I have been defiled or harassed’, the first question many will ask, how was she dressed up?
“What is the coloration between the dressing and romance misbehaviour? We keep on agreeing with this, if you keep on looking in the 1940s and the 1950s photos of your grand parents, you will see them putting on mini-skirts. How many cases were reported about defilement?” Dr. Akech asked asking to stop victimisation of the person who has been victimised.
She said, men should respect women for being women, not to just give excuses because of the way she dresses.
Looking at Karamoja, Ms. Akech said there would be a lot of such cases where people almost move naked because that is their culture calling for a mind change and that should begin with young people, men and then to the entire community.
“Look at an incident of a woman who was raped, went to police to get a police report and was also raped, she went to hospital where she was again raped, who is victimising who? So let’s talk about mind change.” Noted Dr. Akech, adding that, “My plea to our brothers and to fathers, please look at us as sisters, look at us as mothers. If you treat us as equal partners, not as sex objects, then we will have a lot of difference in terms addressing gender based violence not only in Uganda but Africa and world at large.”
Asked about what these organisations have done to fight domestic gender based violence, Dr. Akech said they have to do more in terms of education, in terms of campaign, but also in terms of implementing the current existing law.
“And this goes to all politicians and all those people who have got the power, we can have the interest but don’t have power to change a number of things. Please, let’s put into place mechanism to arrest people who are practicing incest.” She said.
Workshop was attended by women from the districts of Mbarara, Ssembabule, Masaka, Namutumba, Kamuli, Iganga, Jinja, Masindi, and others.
She told journalists that Public Services International enables women from different parts of the country to understand the implications of gender based violence, the drivers of gender based violence itself and what they can do to stop it.
“If you listen to some of their stories, they are actually shy, we have seen a number of cases in Mbarara where we have fathers defiling their daughters. These women sitted here work in different organisations, where the cases of gender based violence are currently being witnessed. Be it in local government, Health sector, and parastatals.” Dr. Akech told press adding that, these women interface on daily basis with workers who are violated either in terms of being sexually harassed to get a promotion or economic harassment.
She said as trade unions, work should not end in board rooms, the fight should be taken to the world places, because many workers are harassed and also some times embarrassed by their bosses.
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