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Amnesty Report Says Law Fails to Protect Female Rape Victims in Uganda

In a report published Wednesday international watchdog Amnesty International says rape is widespread in Uganda and women are not protected by the law. Selah Hennessy, reporting for VOA, spoke to Amnesty researcher Janice Ogonji about the lack of political will to address the problem of sexual violence in both Uganda and other countries around the world.

Janice Ogonji is an Amnesty researcher. She traveled to Uganda in 2009 to research the report.

She says rape in the east African country is widespread - and women are not protected by the law. "It's now had a boomerang effect where women say 'alright fine the law does not protect me and therefore there is no need for me to go in and report abuse of any kind," said Ogonji.

Ogonji says Uganda's government has drafted laws to prohibit violence against women and girls. But she says after several years in parliament, they have yet to be written into law.

And she says the police, prosecution service and the courts are underfunded and understaffed - which makes the road to justice even more difficult.

Ogonji says women who go to the police to report a rape are given no privacy. "Everyone is in there trying to report a case to this one desk officer, who is writing it all down. So I'm coming in to report that I've been raped and you're coming in to report that your car has been stolen and there is no sense of privacy," she said.

Amnesty International released a report on rape in northern Uganda in 2007. It found that rape had become commonplace following two decades of war that killed tens of thousands - and that a severe lack of infrastructure including police stations and hospitals, meant justice wasn't served.

Ogonji says the findings from that report have not changed in two years. "I think there was a general feeling that, 'ok fine, this is an area that has just come out of civil unrest. therefore they do not have the physical infrastructure in place.' And when we went in 2009, now looking at Kampala, where they have everything in place, we found that the problems are more or less the same - so it seems like a universal problem in Uganda," she said.

Ogonji says the attitude in Uganda is that women are to blame for sexual violence. She says it's a problem faced by women all over the world. "I think it's just the patriarchal attitude that women are second-class citizens and men have the right to do with them as they please," said the researcher.

According to the 2006 Uganda Demographic and Household Survey, 60 percent of women in Uganda have experienced physical violence since the age of 15.

According to the same survey, women are four times more likely than men to be targeted for both physical and sexual violence.