Reports of rape and sexual violence increased among women and girls in Uganda during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the increase in HIV.
COVID-19 restrictions caused a lapse in gender-based violence services, which were not initially prioritized as essential health services during COVID-19 lockdown.
According to the report by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 17,702 rape cases were reported in the first six months of lockdown. 22,013 women and girls sought post-rape care representing a 24% increase in post-rape reports during the pandemic.
In the six months before COVID-19, 593 girls under the age of 18 reported sexual violence compared to 860 girls in six months during COVID-19. There was also a 17% increase in reported teen pregnancy during the pandemic.
However, gender-based and sexual violence often go unreported, so the actual increases may have been higher.
The annual crime police report indicates that 14,230 girls were defiled in Uganda in the year between 2020 and 2021.
Of the 14230, 9,954 victims were between the age of 15 and 17 whereas 2,986 were between the age of 14 and nine and 1,280 were below the age of eight.
According to police defilement cases are mainly due to some cultural norms still practised where girls who have developed breasts are considered ready for marriage. These defilement cases are also due to adolescent age where many young girls are taken advantage of, whereas some of the girls are defiled in the process of doing domestic chores like collecting water and firewood especially when they are sent alone.
According to the police report, Kampala district tops the number of rape cases registered at 252 followed by Kamuli at 236, Mbale (230), Buyende (207), Mukono (193), Tororo (188), Buikwe (186), Kiryandongo (185) and Luweero (174) as the top ten districts.
What should be done to end the vice?
Police should identify some of the challenges in fulfilling their mandate. The Institution should set out a new crime plan, including how it can tackle the key priorities.
It is known that the Coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent measures like the lockdown exacerbated the matter. Whereas these are the numbers reported by police, many other cases of defilement and rape remain unreported because of several issues including threatening death to victims by the perpetrators.
Many other victims of defilement have seen their caretakers negotiate deals with the suspects and receive money in exchange for dropping of cases.
For women, many fear reporting incidents of rape for fear of embarrassment.