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What Safety Plans Does Uganda And Communities Have For Survivors Of Intimate Partner Violence?

By Baluku Matayo

The press and social media has been running stories of how Moses Muhangi of NamasubaWakiso District killed his lover and a mother of their two children Josephine Nambogo. This is just a tip of iceberg to demonstrate the forms and consequences of intimate partner violence (IPV) occurring among couples.  According to Word Health Organization, IPV is one of the most common forms of violence against women and includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviors by an intimate partner. In Uganda, 60% of ever-married women have experienced at least one form IPV. Some have even died in the process.

The one question people often ask of survivors of domestic violence is: “Why do/did you stay in an abusive relationship?” Why doesn’t she just leave?” Sometimes the question is meant as an honest inquiry.  However, often it is spoken with an undercurrent of hostility or disbelief—sendinga message that women who stay in abusive relationships are somehow to blame for their abuse. This is not often the case, and unless there is an understanding of these factors, the fight against violence against women remains incomplete.

To begin with, no woman ever wants her marriage not to work. Nearly all survivors of domestic violence will tell us this. One of the reasons they will remain in this relationship is fear. Fear for the public perception that she didn’t do enough to keep her marriage; fear that the partner will spread horrible rumors about her; fear that the partner might hunt her down and kill her and many other fears.

The other reason is concerns about the children. Every mother has a special attachment to her children that it can never be an easy decision to ‘abandon’ them. The abused woman might also be deeply attached to her partner. The attachment might evolve from the marriage vows they made to each other, the religious beliefs about divorce, or the past good moments. Some women may be economically dependent on their partners that they can’t imagine a life without the husband. She keeps hoping for change.

Some of our cultures tend to send the message that a woman’s value depends on her being in a relationship.  Women without partners tend to be devalued, worse still if they divorced. Some women are taught that how it’s their responsibility to maintain the relationship and support their partners, so they may feel guilty about leaving or feel they have “failed.”  Consequently, wife-beating is, in some communities, taken as normal and acceptable. And as a result, many people turn a “deaf ear” to marital violence and believe that what goes on behind closed doors is a “private matter.”

That said, Josephine had overcome all these and many other barriers. She had left her abusive husband and re-located to her parents’ home, only to be killed at the gate by the very husband she had run away from. This brings a question into the equation: what safety plans do we have for survivors of violence against women?  

 

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