Rose Lakwe, a mother of four children was beaten up by her husband James Kedi, stripped naked and tied on a tree. She is HIV positive, a third wife and was inherited when her first husband died. Neighbours heard her wailing and came to find her tied to a tree, naked. One man offered her a pair of shorts, but they all feared to untie her because Kedi, had sounded a warning to anyone who would rescue her before he arrives with Rose’s relatives.
James Kedi is a Vice-chairperson of Akarukei village, Kapir sub-county, Ngora district, Eastern Uganda. It therefore comes as no surprise that whenRose was approached by police and women’s rights activists to sign Police form 3, which is used to adduce evidence in courts of law, she declined.
MIFUMI’s lawyer who visited Rose at her home was shocked to hear her saying that she is happily married and her husband loves her adding that he tied her to a tree was to prevent her from becoming unruly while on ARVs. “With all the scars spread all over her face and body, Rose is trying to protect her second marriage” Immaculate Akello explains.
Women in violent relationships often appear to condone abuse and mistreatment. ‘In this case, we need to understand the power dynamics that inform violence and the complexities around it’ Isis-WICCE Harriet Musoke opines.
‘It is possible that this man is the only source of support and we should ask if is legal justice that Rose wants and be clear about whose justice we are pursuing” she adds. According to Harriet, justice has to be defined based on what the victim wants and her own decision. As such, Rose needs to be supported first to regain her dignity through psychosocial support including trauma counseling in order for her to recover.
“It is important first to heal the mind and body of Rose before embarking on legal justice.” Harriet says.
Rose’s story is not an isolated incident. It is a reflection of experiences many women silently go through in their homes without seeking justice. This is brought about by factors such as social cultural norms, beliefs and practices that reinforce gender inequality and create power imbalance between men and women. According to the Uganda Police Crime Report 2014, violence against women was one of the top crimes with a total of 3006 domestic violence cases and 314 deaths recorded as a result of domestic violence.
In trying to pursue justice for women survivors of domestic violence, it is important to first understand the underlying factors and power dynamics at individual, family and society. It is also important to understand that justice is not only an outcome but an experience and a process that the victims or survivors willingly participate in and witness. Changing attitudes of men and women and society at large is key to stopping violence against women and realizing justice.