Break Negative Social, Cultural And Religious Norms Enslaving Women

A study by OXFAM and Uganda Women’s Network found that negative religious, cultural and social norms are generally acceptable in communities yet they are drivers of violence against women and girls in Uganda.
06 Nov 2020 08:55
Mukono Resident Judge, Justice David Batema challenging Religous leaders over divorce laws. He says women should not be restricted in abusive marriages because of anti-divorce norms in church

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Women and gender activists want an end to negative social, religious and cultural norms blamed for increased violence against women and girls in Uganda.

The call comes as OXFAM and Uganda Women’s Network launch a national campaign to raise awareness about the effects of the generally accepted norms known for subjugating women and girls across different communities in Uganda.

Oxfam Country, Director, Shanty Francis Odokorach, says laws against gender-based violence are ineffective because of the generally acceptable negative norms.

He says religious, cultural and political leaders tend to agree with such norms and there affected the implementation of laws like the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act and Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.

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Odokorach urges leaders in government, cultural institutions and places of worship to promote alternative norms that preserve societal values without promoting, accommodating or tolerating violence.

Associate Professor Paul Bukuluki of Makerere University’s Department of Social Work and Social Administration said some of the negative norms have found way to top decision and policy-making institutions be it Parliament, the Judiciary or cabinet. 

Dr Paul Bukuluki, was presenting findings of a study on social norms and violence against women and girls in Uganda.   He says the research was conducted in the districts of Lira, Kabarole, Kotido, Kamuli, Isingiro and Kampala. Bukuluki reveals that while such social norms are often implicit and informal, most people abide by them.

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He said they found that it is generally acceptable that men possess, control and allocate monetary resources in the households so they take hostage in that to behave in ways that disadvantage women and girls.

Bakuluki said they found that social norms that influence gender-based violence vary greatly across cultural contexts in Uganda. Some of the norms including those that deny girls education have been identified as the root causes to early marriages. Apart from norms around economics and control of resources,

Bakuluki said the norms around physical violence were outstanding in all the districts.

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The research revealed how a range of social, cultural, and religious factors ̶ stemming from patriarchy ̶ combined to inform the construction of a traditional masculinity.

Reverend, Esther Sabiti from John’s Church of Uganda Kamokya said while the scripture is a powerful tool in ending gender-based violence, some preachers have selectively interpreted it to subjugate women and girls.

She lamented that some believers have kept quiet whenever women and girls have been subjected to violence.

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She says unlike those Christians that have chosen to keep quiet amidst violence against women and girls, Jesus advocated for women because most of those in his ministry were women.

Mukono Resident Judge, Justice David Batema said governance and the justice system can be used to question and reform the social norms or what is accepted as normal. He said taking a gender-perspective in interpreting the laws, the Bible or the Koran to avoid discrimination and other gender-based violence against women and girls. 

Known for his stand against gender-based violence, Justice David Batema said some of the preachers tend to interpret the bible and the Koran to keep the women in submissive and subordinate positions.

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Justice Batema says if power belongs to the people as per the constitution, then duty bearers should interpret to the people what that power is and how it should be used by either the police, church leaders or the judiciary. He says women continue to suffer violence because those charged with interpretation and enforcement of the laws lack training on gender.

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The launch of the Enough Campaign in Uganda comes ass activists in Uganda prepare for events in commemoration of the UN System’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence activities, from 25 November to 10 December.

This year’s event will be commemorated at a time when almost each country is reporting increased case of gender-based violence as families retreated inside homes due to the lockdown measures introduced to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.