Security Forces Pinned for Increased Sexual Violence During Covid-19 Lockdown

After the outbreak of Covid-19 in Uganda, it was the security organs’ task to have all women stay safe in their respective areas.

However, some women have faced it rough after being raped, tortured and robbed by the people meant to protect them and their properties.

Rahuma Nabasirye, a resident of Ggulu A in Mukono Municipality is a single mother of three children. She says she was raped, tortured and robbed by security personnel in Mukono Town during curfew operation at around 8pm.

She adds that although she is a sex worker, the way security officers treated was inhumane. It should be noted that sex work in Uganda is illegal but most sex workers do it in hiding. However, government has an obligation to protect women’s rights at all cost. 

“Security officers entered into my premises with firearms and threatened before raping me. They also took my hard earned money,” she says.

Nabasirye adds that whenever she tried to resist, they would threaten to strangle her. As a result of what happened to her and the trauma she went through, she decided to keep quiet and nurse the pain. She is also now worried that from such experience, she could have contracted HIV.

 Salima Muhindu, another sex worker at Wantoni Village in Mukono Municipality, who is also a single mother of two children, says she was once raped at around 9pm by security forces as a result of enforcing curfew.

Muhindu says that her and the colleagues were at their premises when they were shocked to see one of the uniformed police officer turning against her. 

“They grabbed and pulled me up to the room at gun point, forced me to undress myself and raped me. He also ordered me to surrender all the money I had on me. He threatened to arrest me if I defied those orders,” she recalls.

She adds that due to fear, she surrendered all her money to him to save herself. Ritah Nyirampanimbangye also narrates that during the lockdown, security officers have treated her and her colleagues so badly through beating and raping them. 

She adds that they took their issues to the area security commanders for intervention but there was no response and the violations instead continued.These are among hundreds of women around the country who have gone through similar situations.

The Ggulu A Local Council One chairperson, Muhamed Waswa Takwan, says that he has been getting reports from various women reporting security officers who have raped them and also taken their money.

He adds that because of the many reported rape and robbery cases, they organised a meeting and invited security commanders the victims pinned the officers. 

“One of the commanders apologised to the community for whatever crimes his officers committed. He also promised that such acts would never happen again,” Waswa says. 

However, the deputy police spokesperson of Kampala Metropolitan, Luke Oweyesigire, asked the victims to report such cases to the police headquarters with evidence so they can be helped. 

According to Mukono District police, 40 percent of rape cases reported at Mukono Police Division in 2020 were not taken to court for the victims to receive justice. The Police Crime report for 2020 also indicated that rape cases across the country increased during Covid-19. 

According to the report, the leading regions were Rwizi with the highest number of cases at 120, Kampala Metropolitan where Mukono falls with 191 cases, Albertine region had 91 cases.

Across the country, 1531 cases were registered, decreasing from 1580 in 2018. In total, only 688 suspects of rape were charged in court, 20 were convicted, six were acquitted, 15 discharged and 647 are waiting for trial.

Also records at the Mukono District State Attorney’s office show that several cases appear for perusal and advice but once the files are taken back to police for file re-arrangement, they are not returned for sanctioning. 

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