BUSHENYI: Leaders,officials worried as domestic violence cases soar during lock down

BUSHENYI: Leaders,officials worried as domestic violence cases soar during lock down

BUSHENYI

Ms. Natukunda (not real name), mother of two has had rough time during the COVID-19 lock down. She doesn’t get enough rest at night despite the long days she takes fending for the family.  Her husband comes home with prostitutes and orders her off their matrimonial bed to give space to the “visitor.” Natukunda first serves supper and steps aside to watch as spectator. This exposes her to the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and emotional torture. Such is a bitter experience that Natukunda and other women are going through on top of other forms of violence.

Local leaders have raised a critical alert about the snowballing cases of domestic violence at a time when communities are grappling with the effects of COVID-19 disease.

In several areas, men, women and children have been victims of financial, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse ever since a lock down was effected by the Government of Uganda to stop the spread of COVID-19 disease.

According to Mrs. Faith Amanya Betega, the Bushenyi district senior probation and social welfare officer, her office, which is a referral center registers about six domestic violence case per day.

She says, during the lock down, some men have been forced to sleep in vehicles whereas others find refuge in sleeping bags so that they can get time away from their “nagging partners

“If my office at the district level can get six cases per day, how about the police? How about the unreported cases? Actually, we are missing on some data because of the lock down.

The victims of domestic violence are unable to get social support since movement of people to different areas is restricted. Normally, the affected people and victims could flee violence or get counseling services from friends, parents and trusted members of the community.

Mr. John Nyabugaro, the local council chairperson of Kyeitembe West central division, Bushenyi ishaka municipality, says during the COVID-19 lock down, people have on a daily basis continued to throng his office with complaints stemming from violence in their families.

“These days it is worse. Many people come to my office everyday reporting domestic violence cases. Remember some cases are not reported. I am currently doing more of counselling so that there can be a change.” He says

In a recent local radio interview, the Bishop of West Ankole Diocese, Rt. Rev. Johnson Twinomujuni, has advised couples experiencing violence to seek counseling from trusted religious leaders instead of fighting over issues in families.

As a step towards addressing the issue, Mrs Betega says hands should not keep closed in the ‘new normal.’ She wants religious institutions to put in place mechanisms that can help to curb the situation.

“We should not keep our hands closed. The Reverend or Lay reader may not go down to visit every family, but they can advise church wardens and other leaders at grass root level to keep ears on ground so they can stand in the gap in case families turn violent. The Church leaders can look for ways of reaching the flock and of course following the standard operating procedures put in place by the government,” she advises

She adds: “the moment religious come out with well packed messages, there will be some encouragement because their messages come with hope and provide encouragement. This will help us address heartbreaking issues affecting families during the lock down.”

Some religious leaders are aware of the increasing cases and are doing what they can do send messages of counseling and reconciliation to their people according to Rev. Didas Natweta, the Diocesan Secretary, West Ankole Diocese.

Pastor Fred Bindeeba of Rwenjeru Pentecostal Ministries of Uganda has resorted to home to home counselling of couples to help them prevent domestic violence.

“We are required to preach the gospel and reach our Christians in and out of season and this time is out of season. With strict observation of ministry of health guidelines, I have decided to move from home to home counseling of couples and family members so that we can prevent such cases from happening and increasing.” He asserts

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