By David Martin Aliker
Today, Sunday 8th March 2020 is International Women’s day. International Women’s Day is a global day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
In Uganda the theme is, “I am Generation Equity: Realizing Women’s Rights.”
In Gulu, this celebration will be in the backdrop of a recent investigative story on child prostitution by Next Broadcasting Service (NBS) titled, “Haunted by the Past.”
How does this generation of the girl child realize equity in an increasingly high sexual violence environment?
When guns fell silent in post conflict Gulu (Northern Uganda), another form of physical violence came in place namely; child sexual violence.
Ending all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation against children is now a global priority in the new Sustainable Development Goals.
In 2017, Gulu district local government, Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) and Civil society organizations made an equivocal declaration to renew the fight against gender based violence (GBV).
The declaration was made during a district engagement meeting on 16 days of activism against GBV at the District Health Officer’s (DHO) boardroom.
The partners committed themselves to, among other things, conduct awareness in villages, schools and in public gatherings, provide psychosocial support and build reporting pathways to GBV.
In the same year, statistics from the probation and welfare department of the district indicated that in the last one year, 1, 240 cases of child abuse were recorded, forced marriages (939), rape (93) and sexual assault (1,089).
Similarly in 2019, The Chief Magistrate Court in Gulu district dismissed a defilement case against a district leader after prosecution failed to present substantial witnesses to place the accused at the scene of crime after the teenager alleged to have been defiled never appeared in court to testify against him.
In May, 2019 another case of aggravated defilement of a 14 year old was reported against another district official at Gulu Central Police station under CRB 762/2019 confirming that the minor was two months pregnant.
In the previous year, while Aswa River Region recorded 896 cases of defilement according to police crime and traffic reports; a case of a high profile elderly businessman on aggravated defilement was granted unconditional release after he had over spent his mandatory time in police custody as it investigated the case.
This was after his nude pictures with a minor leaked to social media; however investigations failed to identify the location of the victim.
While these files are attracting dust at Police and at the Resident State Attorney’s offices, Gulu leaders in public offices, civil society and business community continue observe conspicuous silence even when these young girls have been confirmed as defiled.
Alarmed and defeated by the conspicuous exceedingly loud silence and inaction of clear structural injustice from state offices obligated and mandated to protect the girl child; the local community is rising up to speak up for the girl child.
GULUspeaks is a local community initiative inspired by Plan Uganda’s Community based child protection approach to confront a sexual crisis in Gulu.
They are urging every community member to join a grassroots movement of volunteers foot soldiers for a free and safe child friendly environment who are committed to Speaking Up whenever they know and acknowledge that a girl child’s sexual rights has been violated from where you are located.
GULUspeaks is also urging the Gulu leadership to launch a public investigation by Gulu eminent persons on the status of child sexual violence for the public to speak up and derive solutions to address this vice.
It’s time for Gulu leaders in public offices and civil society to own up to their commitment to conduct awareness in villages, schools and in public gatherings, provide psychosocial support and build safe reporting pathways to GBV by Speaking Up.
Conclusively, will Gulu celebrate the achievements of their silent women in the face of mass sexual violence of their daughters? The realization of gender equity remains a dream less worth celebrating unless we care about the indignity of our marginalized daughters whose only economic offer in the market is their body as we spectate.
The author is an Opinion Leader based in Gulu. Email: email@example.com