Uganda: Disarm Domestic Violence workshop

On 12 May 2010 during the Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence, the Centre for Conflict Resolution (CECORE) and East African Subregional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI) organised a national workshop on armed domestic violence and the gender dimensions of armed violence.

Ms. Jane Ocaya-Irama, Programmes Manager, East African Sub-regional Support Initiatives (EASSI) welcomed everyone to this important workshop that is bringing together organisations working in gender and those working on peace building. EASSI has been working on issues of SALW and gender for 3 years in the sub region i.e. in Uganda, Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia and Tanzania.

All the countries, apart from Tanzania, have experienced conflict in one way or another with devastating impacts on women. After the realisation that no work was being done in the area of gender dimensions of SALW, EASSI embarked on this kind of work.

It is this work that eventually formed this strong partnership with CECORE and IANSA during this Global Week of Action against Gun Violence. She expressed gratitude at having the National Focal Point on Small Arms present at the workshop. She pointed out that most of the stakeholders invited are those that we who we do not usually interact with, for example from Ministry of Defence, to discuss issues of SALW and particularly reduce impact on women especially the impacts of guns used against women in the home.

Ms. Rose Othieno, Ag. Executive Director, Center for Conflict Resolution (CECORE) also welcomed the participants to the workshop and briefly spoke about CECORE, which was established in 1995 when there were few, if any, NGOs working in the area of Conflict Resolution. She recounted how privileged we were to have Ms. Sarah Masters, Coordinator of IANSA Women’s Network with us during the Global Week of Action against Gun Violence.

Rose Othieno, CECORERose Othieno, CECORE

About the Participants

The participants each introduced themselves, mentioning their names and the institutions they represented. There were 56 participants; 42 Female, 14 Male representing a wide range of institutions i.e. women’s organisations, faith based organisations, media, lawyers, NGOs, parliament, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Ministry of Internal Affairs, among others.

Overview of Global Week of Action against Gun Violence

Background information was given on events that led to the formation of a Plan of Action on Small Arms i.e. In Bamako, African states realised that they needed a strategy to work on Small Arms issues in Africa, which resulted into the adoption of a Great Lakes strategy that saw the Nairobi Protocol and Programme of Action being formed.

Each country within the Great Lakes Region has tried to translate the Protocol into National Action Plans specific to each. These are government structures however.

On the other hand, Civil Society organised themselves into the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). Since there was need for the network to implement activities on the ground, regional and national networks were formed, thus Uganda Action Network on Small Arms (UANSA). The Great Lakes Region has a body that brings the national chapters together i.e. RECSA.

Every year, there is a reflection on what has been done per year during the GWoA. There is an assessment of what has happened in as far as the targets we have set e.g. Arms Trade Treaty from government and Civil Society perspectives.


Presentation on Disarm Domestic Violence Campaign by Rose Othieno, CECORE

The Disarm Domestic Violence Campaign was introduced as a campaign to reduce gun violence in the home, its goal being to take guns out of the hands of actual or potential abusers.

The campaign requires that we push government and international community to launch special programmes aimed at taking guns out of the hands of abusers; and engage others including the media, the wider, women’s movement, parliaments, trade unions and civil society.

An overview of the problem was given to demonstrate the impact of gun violence on women with a gun in the home being a major risk factor for femicide and used to threaten and subjugate women.

The possession or access to firearms ranked as the fifth domestic violence risk factor (accounting for 55%) according to a homicide survey carried out by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Guns are considered so deadly in Domestic Violence because:

  • The severity of the wounds caused by a gunshot is highly destructive to human tissue.
  • The presence of a firearm, with its threat of lethality, reduces a woman’s capacity for resistance.
  • The trauma of being threatened by a husband or partner is all the greater when he brandishes a gun and there is a very real danger of being killed.
  • Guns also reduce the chances of victims escaping or of outsiders intervening to assisting them.

Statistics from around the world demonstrate that more women than men die at the hands of their current or former spouse with the presence of a gun increasing the risk.

In Uganda, anecdotal evidence and media monitoring indicates that the use of small arms in domestic violence incidents is by the security sector (including military and police) and that weapons issued by an employer have been misused when the person is off-duty.

Some of the recommendations forwarded to combat the problem are:

  1. The National Focal Point (NFP) on Small Arms should include gun restrictions for domestic violence offenders in the laws being developed.
  2. There should be severe penalties for weapons lost or stolen.
  3. Weapons must not be taken home or possessed by ‘off-duty’ employees whether in state or private security forces.
  4. Every weapon should be registered.
  5. Regulate private, military and security services to guarantee accountability and prevent misuse.

Legislation should include:

  • Gun ownership and possession
  • Registration
  • Licensing, including prohibiting people with a history of violence
  • Safe storage scheme for military and police weapons
  • The issue of guns and links to Violence against Women/Domestic Violence should be given priority.

Presentation on National Action Plan (NAP) on SALW by Joe Burua, Uganda National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons

The Uganda National Focal Point (NFP) on Small Arms and Light Weapons, set up in 2001, is the government agency responsible for coordinating action to address Small Arms issues. A mapping process involving a number of stakeholders was undertaken to identify issues that need to be addressed.

The NAP, which is a process led and coordinated by NFP, is a comprehensive plan that provides a coherent structure and strategy to address all aspects of the small arms problem in Uganda and provides a national framework for the development of activities on small arms by the government and civil society.
It is a five year plan whose implementation started in July 2004 and is ongoing. The first phase expired last month (April 2010). The next step is to review it and determine what was left out so it can be included in the next action plan.

Presentation on Gender Dimensions of SALW by Marren Akatsa-Bukach, Executive Director, EASSI

The presentation started with an overview of the situation of gender and SALW. It was noted that the wide presence of guns, be they peaceful, at war or somewhere in between, has an impact on women and men in all kinds of communities. Guns are overwhelmingly owned and used by men; small arms facilitate violence and contribute to a culture of violence and fear; gun culture and the culture of violence are closely connected; and gun culture is also tightly linked to notions of masculinity and male identity.

Worldwide, men own and use most of the guns. The military and police are dominated by men. Firearms also go to the home ‘off-duty’. Women form a very small proportion of fire arm owners but large a proportion of victims.
There are many negative effects of small arms: sexual violence used as a weapon of war, abductions at gun point, routine gang rape of refugees by armed assailants e.g. in Dadaab refugee camp in Northern Kenya.

Women are not only victims; they also participate as combatants and in support roles, providing information, food, clothing and shelter. They become heads of households (providers), caretakers of the sick and injured, for their devastated families, because of the diminished adult male population. However, despite their many roles during and after conflict, they are frequently excluded from post conflict decision making and disarmament and demobilisation processes.

Marren Akatsa-Bukachi, EASSIMarren Akatsa-Bukachi, EASSI

Women, violence and guns in the home

While men are often killed by strangers with guns, women are often more at risk of armed violence by their intimate partners or men known to them, when guns are in the house. The presence of a gun in the home usually increases the likelihood that domestic violence will end in death but in many countries, national legislation does not address this.

There is no gender disaggregated data on small arms; women have been inadequately consulted whenever any programmes are launched. The issue is not being looked at as a Human Rights issue.

Some of the recommendations given include:

  • Reframe the small arms problem as a human security issue;
  • Urgently implement the Beijing Plan of Action and UNSCR 1325. both give clear mandate to countries around the world to incorporate gender perspectives in security related decisions and in the implementation of security sector reform;
  • Promote gender equal participation and involve both women and men in peace related decisions;
  • Disaggregate data by sex;
  • Promote gender aware research on small arms;
  • Update national legislation to include gun owners as possible perpetrators of gun violence.

Presentation on the Arms Trade Treaty by Richard Mugisha, UANSA Chairperson

The presenter highlighted that Small Arms is a big problem and presented the case for an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) as a potential multilateral treaty that would stop irresponsible arms transfer from causing more human suffering.
Despite the suffering and poverty fuelled by arms transfers, there is still no binding treaty to regulate the transfer/proliferation of SALW.

Next steps

EASSI and CECORE are to work on an Advocacy Strategy to work on the issues raised in the group work session. A time period of two months was given for the two organisations to carry out research and draft an Advocacy Plan.