Crime and Justice Local

“BREAKING THE SILENCE: Teen’s Incest Survival Sparks Urgent Concern for Gender-Based Violence in Kasese

Innocent Kiiza is an Enviromental Investigative Journalist with passion for Climate Change, Water and Wildlife.

BY INNOCENT KIIZA

At just 16 years old, Jane Musoki has experienced more hardships than many individuals do in an entire lifetime. At her tender age, she endured a traumatic incident that haunts her to this day – she was raped by her own father.

In my interaction with Musoki as she recounted her painful story, I felt a deep sense of empathy for her as she narrated how her harrowing journey began, casting her as a victim of incest within her own family, in the quiet Maliba sub-county of Busongora North, Kasese district.

In a heart-wrenching account, Musoki recalled the initial moments of horror when her father, whom she once trusted, perpetrated the unthinkable.

“This man entered my room quietly and found me sleeping, isolated from my younger siblings. He abruptly stripped away my bedsheet and began violating me, all while menacingly warning me to remain silent,” she shared, her voice trembling.

“He threatened me with violence, insisting that I must not speak a word about it. He warned that dire consequences awaited if I dared to confide in my mother. That was the first instance.”

Subsequently, when Musoki sought refuge among her younger sisters and brothers, hoping to escape the clutches of her father’s abuse, her father’s relentlessness shattered her hope.

A Primary School going young mother breastfeeding.

He invaded her safe haven, forcefully dragging her back to her own room, and brutally silencing her attempts to cry out. Musoki, now expecting a child from her own father, shared her tragic ordeal with me at Kasese Municipal Health Centre III, her voice carrying both resilience and despair.

As I listened to her story, Musoki revealed that her mother remains unaware of the unspeakable truth – that her unborn grandchild is a product of incestuous assault, a revelation that led to Musoki’s banishment from home after her mother discovered her pregnancy.

Musoki currently resides with her aunt in Basecamp Lower within Kasese municipality, staunchly affirming that she will never find it within herself to forgive her father. Even as her mother extends support for her and her impending child, Musoki’s conviction remains unswayed by the material provisions.

“I’m haunted by the question of whether the man who did this to me is truly my biological father,” Musoki’s voice quivered with a mixture of sorrow and disbelief as she reflected on her tragic reality.

Rosette, another survivor of sexual violence, recounted her own heartrending story. Despite the immense fear of losing her life, she chose not to terminate her pregnancy, thus giving birth to a child that serves as a constant reminder of her trauma.

In African culture, incest is shrouded in taboo, and offspring conceived from such acts are often unjustly labeled as “evil.”

Musoki’s case is not an isolated incident. Shockingly, it’s one of 38 cases of aggravated defilement reported in the past six months at Kasese Central Police Station in Kasese district.

According to SP Nelson Tumushime, spokesperson for Rwenzori East Division, the region has witnessed a total of 114 cases of sexual Gender-Based Violence, including 2 cases of rape, 38 cases of aggravated defilement, 72 cases of simple defilement, and 2 cases of indecent assault.

Presently, 53 cases are in court, 51 are under investigation, and 10, including Musoki’s case, have languished due to lack of prosecution.

Tumushime unequivocally condemned these heinous acts, revealing that a significant portion of the perpetrators are closely related to the victims. He shed light on the unfortunate reality that many cases are settled within families, with only a fraction being officially reported to police stations in sub-counties and divisions.

As the district continues to grapple with these disturbing incest cases, Musoki’s story underscores the pervasive nature of Gender-Based Violence, a global human rights issue transcending social, economic, and geographical boundaries. Startlingly, statistics indicate that approximately one in three individuals worldwide will experience physical or sexual abuse during their lifetimes.

This violence manifests in various forms – from intimate partner or domestic violence to sexual violence, coercion, and threats – all of which bear direct consequences on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Kasese district, home to a population of approximately 702,029 individuals, with women comprising 51.7%, is confronted with the harsh reality of early pregnancies, child marriages, and sexual violence.

The average age of first marriage stands at a shocking 12 years, with a substantial number of households housing young girls who have fallen victim to rape, defilement, early pregnancies, or child marriages.

The impact of such circumstances is profound, leading to increased dropout rates from educational institutions and perpetuating the vicious cycle of poverty and inequality.

The pernicious effects of negative cultural norms exacerbate gender-based violence, resulting in discrimination, inequity, and the unjust denial of assets to widows and orphans.

Nonetheless, addressing these issues presents formidable challenges. One of the gravest concerns is the gross underreporting of gender-based violence, including incestuous abuse.

Queengonda Asiimwe, the District Community Development Officer, sheds light on the struggles faced by her department in managing such cases.

Scarce funds and inefficient data management systems hinder their efforts, highlighting the urgent need for sustainable funding and enhanced planning to effectively combat gender-based violence.

As Queengonda emphasizes, the current focus on response mechanisms over preventive measures presents a significant hurdle to progress.

Queengonda Asiimwe, the Kasese District Community Development Officer.

Confronting gender-based violence and incest demands a shift in approach, prioritizing prevention through targeted interventions, awareness campaigns, and comprehensive sexuality education.

To address these pressing challenges, the report outlines a series of recommendations. It underscores the necessity for capacity-building initiatives among stakeholders, including cultural and religious leaders, to enhance their understanding of case management.

Additionally, allocating budgets and implementing robust data management strategies for gender-based violence are crucial for long-term sustainability, reducing reliance on external partners.

Prioritizing preventive measures is paramount in effectively combating gender-based violence. By challenging detrimental cultural norms and promoting gender equality, Kasese district can foster an environment where such violence is less likely to occur.

The report calls for a collective effort to eradicate harmful practices, offering support and protection to vulnerable individuals. By implementing the recommendations, Kasese district can strive towards eliminating gender-based violence and empowering its residents to lead safe, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Women and girls who endure gender-based violence endure violations of their fundamental human rights, facing heightened risks of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and sexually transmitted infections. In the majority of cases, survivors of violence are 50% more likely to contract HIV.

STI due to GBVInjuries due GBVAnxiety Disorder due to GBVAbortions due to GBV casesAbortion due to GBV death
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Table showing effects of GBV in the last 12 Months since June 2022 in Kasese District.

The comprehensive report also reveals that women facing domestic violence are often denied access to crucial reproductive healthcare and contraceptives by their partners, hindering their ability to plan their families, pursue education, or secure employment. Gender-based violence becomes even more pronounced in times of humanitarian crises and conflict, where violence and rape are wielded as tools of warfare.

Displaced women and girls are especially vulnerable during times of chaos, often finding refuge in safe spaces and local health clinics established by international organizations like the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

This global issue takes an immense toll, with studies estimating that violence costs between one and two percent of a country’s gross domestic product. Eradicating violence against women is not only pivotal for gender equality but also a fundamental aspect of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Similar to many survivors, Musoki bore the weight of her traumatic experience in silence for years.

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