Uganda: Properly investigate and prosecute cases of sexual violence against the disabled

Version imprimable
Numéro de l'action: 
46.1
Date: 
12 Nov 2012
Date de mise à jour: 
19 Mar 2013
MISE A JOUR: 

UPDATE 19 MARCH 2013: The remaining suspect in the case, who had run away, was found dead in early 2013. However, Equality Now is calling for DNA testing of his body at the government’s expense without delay.


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In 2007, Sanyu, a 13-year-old blind, deaf and mute Ugandan girl, was raped and became pregnant as a result; she delivered a baby boy in April 2008. Her mother contacted the authorities to inform them that the only males who would have had access to Sanyu were Sanyu’s father and three brothers, but despite having strong suspects, the police did not follow up. It was only after the case was publicized in the media that the police opened an investigation. As Sanyu’s disabilities made it impossible for her to identify her rapist, her mother called for DNA testing of Sanyu’s father, brothers and baby to establish paternity with help from our Ugandan partner, Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities (LAPD). The official Government Analytical Laboratory in Wandegya, however, did not respond to the request and the police closed the case. Sanyu’s child was adopted by a family and Sanyu now lives in a home for the disabled.

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

Upon learning about the case, Equality Now successfully raised funds for DNA testing in 2011, and, coupled with sustained pressure on Ugandan authorities by LAPD, had the case reopened. DNA samples were taken from three of the four suspects on 24 August 2011 (four years after the rape) and sent to the Government chemist for testing, as is required for trial admissibility. The remaining suspect, one of Sanyu’s brothers, was not tested as he had run away. The DNA testing languished for over a year; when finally received, the results showed that, though none of the three were the father of Sanyu’s baby, the baby’s father was genetically of the same paternal line. To our knowledge no effort has been made by the police to apprehend and test the remaining suspect. Equality Now and LAPD are seriously disturbed by the lack of a thorough investigation and the five year delay in justice for Sanyu, who is now 18. We are calling for improved legal procedures in cases of sexual violence and for additional steps to be taken to help disabled victims.

Sexual violence is widespread in Uganda, and disabled women and girls are particularly vulnerable. According to the Ugandan Demographic and Health Survey (2006), almost one in four women between the ages of 15-49 experienced rape as their first sexual intercourse and 39% of women in the same age group have experienced sexual violence. According to the same survey, 20% of Ugandans have disabilities. The government, however, does not take the additional steps needed to ensure justice for disabled victims of sexual violence by implementing investigative techniques that would help facilitate the process.
 
The Constitution of Uganda upholds the rights of people with disabilities and states “the State shall take affirmative action in favour of groups marginalised on the basis of gender, age, disability or any other reason created by history, tradition or custom, for the purpose of redressing imbalances which exist against them.” In addition, The Persons with Disabilities Act, 2006, provides for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against people with disabilities and toward equal opportunities. Under the Ugandan penal code, sex with girls under the age of 18 (called “defilement”) is criminalized. Failure by the government to protect disabled victims—an especially marginalized population—and to fully investigate crimes of sexual violence as well as to ensure swift access to justice leads to further victimization.

The Government of Uganda has ratified a number of regional and international human rights instruments that provide for the rights of persons with disabilities, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Protocol) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). In addition, Uganda has ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which in its General Recommendation No. 18 calls on States to report on special measures taken to deal with the particular situation of women with disabilities. The CRPD calls on State parties to “put in place effective legislation and policies, including women and child-focused legislation and policies, to ensure that instances of exploitation, violence and abuse against persons with disabilities are identified, investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted.” It also calls for special measures and procedures to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to effectively access justice on an equal basis with others and to exercise their legal capacity. The Protocol provides that states will “ensure the right of women with disabilities to freedom from violence, including sexual abuse, discrimination based on disability and the right to be treated with dignity.”

In its General Comment 9, the CRC Committee states that children with disabilities are five times more likely to be subjected to abuse and that “[g]irls with disabilities are often even more vulnerable to discrimination due to gender discrimination.” The Committee goes on to request State parties to “pay particular attention to girls with disabilities by taking the necessary measures, and when needed extra measures, in order to ensure that they are well protected, have access to all services and are fully included in society.” The CEDAW Committee in its examination of Uganda’s State Party report in October 2010 called on Uganda to “prevent, investigate, and prosecute gender-based violence committed against all women, including women with disabilities.”

Had it not been for the intervention of Equality Now and LAPD, Sanyu’s case would have remained closed, with her disabilities preventing her from getting justice. However, even with the intervention of Ugandan and international groups, the Ugandan government has been slow to act, enabling impunity for Sanyu’s rapist. To ensure that Sanyu and other girls in similar situations get justice, the government of Uganda must live up to its domestic and international obligations and take additional steps to improve the investigation process and prosecution rate in sexual violence cases involving disabled victims.

Comment agir: 

Contact the Ugandan Government and urge them to:

  1. Conduct DNA testing on the body of the remaining suspect at the government’s expense without delay.
  2. Ensure that all relevant investigative techniques, including DNA testing, are promptly carried out in cases of sexual violence, and in particular, those concerning disabled victims.

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Letters should be addressed to:

Richard Buteera
Director of Public Prosecutions
Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)
P.O. Box 1550
Kampala, Uganda
Phone: +256-414-332-501 - 7
Fax: +256-414-251-951

Hon. Chief Justice Benjamin Joseph Odoki,
Chief Justice of Uganda
The Judiciary Courts of Judicature
High Court Building
Box 7085
Kampala, Uganda
Phone: +256-414-341-116
Email: bodoki@judicature.go.ug

Lady Justice Alice E. Mpagi-Bahigeine
Deputy Chief Justice of Uganda
The Judiciary Courts of Judicature
High Court Building
Box 7085
Kampala, Uganda
Email: ampagi@judicature.go.ug

Lettres: 

Dear Mr./Hon. Chief Justice/Lady Justice

I am deeply concerned about the Ugandan government’s inaction in protecting disabled sexual violence victims and the lack of additional steps to investigate crimes against them that would ensure swift justice. A case in point is Sanyu, a 13-year-old blind, deaf and mute Ugandan girl, who was raped and became pregnant as a result but was unable to communicate the identity of her rapist due to her condition. Sanyu’s mother and Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities - Uganda (LAPD) called for DNA testing of Sanyu’s father, three brothers (the only males who had access to her) and the baby to establish paternity, but the Government Analytical Laboratory - Wandegya did not respond to  the official request and the police closed the case.

Upon learning about the case, international human rights organization Equality Now successfully raised funds for DNA testing in 2011 and with the assistance of LAPD, had the case reopened. DNA samples were taken from three of the four suspects (one brother had run away) on 24 August 2011 (four years after the rape) and sent to the Government chemist for testing, as is required for trial admissibility. The DNA testing languished for over a year and when finally received, the results showed that the baby’s father was genetically of the same paternal line, though none of the three tested were the father of Sanyu’s baby. To our knowledge no effort has been made by the police to apprehend and test the remaining suspect. Along with Equality Now and LAPD, I am seriously disturbed by the lack of a thorough investigation and the five year delay in justice for Sanyu, who is now 18. I support the call for improved legal procedures in cases of sexual violence, and for additional steps to be taken to help disabled victims.

Sexual violence is widespread in Uganda and disabled women and girls such as Sanyu are particularly vulnerable. The Constitution of Uganda and The Persons with Disabilities Act, 2006 upholds the rights of people with disabilities and provide for the elimination of all forms of discrimination and toward equal opportunities for them. However, the government does not take additional steps to facilitate justice for disabled victims of sexual violence such as Sanyu by making provision for investigative techniques that would facilitate the process and this leads to further victimization.

The Government of Uganda has ratified a number of regional and international human rights instruments that provide for the rights of persons with disabilities, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Protocol) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). In addition, Uganda has ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which in its General Recommendation No. 18 calls on States to report on special measures taken to deal with the particular situation of women with disabilities.

In order to make sure that Sanyu and girls in similar situations get justice, Uganda must live up to its domestic and international obligations and take additional steps to improve the investigation process and prosecution rate in sexual violence cases involving disabled victims. In particular I urge you to ensure that DNA testing of the remaining suspect is conducted at government expense without delay. Please ensure that all relevant investigative techniques, including DNA testing, are promptly carried out in cases of sexual violence, and in particular, those concerning disabled victims.

Thank you for your attention.
Sincerely