Police to institute sexual violence unit

By Andrew Ssenyonga

In a bid to reduce the rampant sexual violence cases in the country, the government is planning to set up a specialized police unit to lower the offence.

The Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Division (CIID) boss Grace Akullo revealed that the government is to establish a fully-resourced and specialised police unit with dedicated personnel to handle cases of sexual violence.

“Like the war crime division in the high court, the special unit would help in reporting session of the crimes, investigations and prosecution.” Akullo said.

She added that the unit will also provide security of the victims and also take them through the process of integration to the society.

She noted that the annual Police crime and traffic report indicated a raise in the gender based violence cases from 6,522 in 2013 compared to 7,256 in 2014.

“This increment calls for a creation of a special unit as the child and family protection unit in police is overwhelmed with the number of cases,” Akullo said.

She noted that the specialised unit would have the operational autonomy to expedite cases.

“A unit comes with resource allocations and trained personnel to manage the cases as well as offer preventive, promotional and rehabilitative services in all the districts in the country,” Akullo said.

“Without such a unit, justice in gender-violence cases will remain elusive,” she added.

Akullo said that besides a lack of trained officers and resources, access to justice is also hampered by the long legal procedures which victims need to go through when reporting an attack.

Akullo also noted the need to sensitise the communities and survivors on the importance of immediate reporting of the crimes.

Some of the participants listening to presenters through interpreters at the Missing Peace Practitioners’ workshop at Speke Resort Munyonyo Kampala on August 26,2015. Photo by Edward Kisoma.

The CIID chief made the pronouncement during a three-day ‘Missing Peace workshop’ that drew 70 African experts on wartime sexual violence at Speke Resort Munyonyo on Wednesday.

In the workshop. a new four-country study on conflict- related sexual violence was released. The study was compiled by the Human Rights Center, UC Berkeley School of Law.

The study highlights barriers in reporting, investigating and prosecuting sexual violence and recommended better training and more funding for the local healthcare workers and police officers on the front lines.

The study named ‘the long road, accountability for sexual violence conflict and post-conflict settings. The case studies were done in countries including Kenya, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Uganda.

According to the study, informants indicated that stigma associated with sexual violence, pressure from community and family members to settle cases informally, and preferences for community- based resolution prevent many survivors from reporting these acts to the police and the formal legal system.

The study also highlighted the extent to which the collection of evidence in cases of sexual violence is a cross- sectoral effort beset with resource, capacity, and coordination challenges.

The director of the Human Rights Center’s sexual violence program called for trained personnel and a private area where victims could record statements and discuss their ordeals.

“Most gender desks in police stations are manned by unqualified personnel who in most cases are reassigned to other duties, leaving gender violence cases unattended.” she said.