Perpetrator Goes Free, Children and Adults Continue to Suffer
Their case for a car: Wakiso District’s Human Rights Committee seeks donations
Only 11 miles across Lake Victoria from Entebbe, Bussi Island is so inaccessible that it may as well be 150 miles away. The only way to get to and from the island is in a small primitive-looking wooden boat. If the boat gets there. They sometimes don’t. Some sink due to overloading and turbulent waves. Some aren’t in a safe condition. And others don’t quite dodge the hippos who attack and kill people riding in them.
Once you get to Bussi Island there are roads, not many, and no traffic jams. To drive there, your car has also had to cross Lake Victoria, but on a very scary ferry. The lack of reliable transportation to, from, and on Bussi Island isolates residents and sets them up for serious violations of human, health, economic, and social rights, says the Wakiso Human Rights Committee. The Committee is raising funds to buy a vehicle to better serve the people who live there.
One day a few years ago, Galiwango John, a community member, had had it. He was tired of watching a man he accused of serial defilement, a legal term in Uganda for having sexual intercourse with girls between 14 and 18 years of age, and incest, a legal term for sexual intercourse between family members. The man was not only not ashamed, but he also crowed that no one could touch him, not even the police.
The Committee heard about the man and asked a community liaison officer to arrest him. He was arrested and taken to the only police station while the police waited for the community to raise money to hire them to transport the man across the Lake to Entebbe. Community members couldn’t afford to pay the costs and asked the Committee for help. The Committee tried fundraising to pay the police to bring him to Entebbe, but their efforts fell short. Instead, they had to hire a private car.
But the job was not over. Witnesses needed be transported to Entebbe to testify that the man had defiled them, but the Committee couldn’t afford to bring them there. The Committee, though a part of local government, doesn’t have a vehicle and it’s expensive to hire a private car. So, after the man spent the maximum allowable two-weeks in jail. They had to let him go and the community and his victims never got their eagerly awaited Justice.
So, what did that mean for the man? He escaped a potential maximum punishment of life in prison. He did get off scot-free. No one could touch him. What did that mean to someone else who defiles or wants to defile on Bussi Island? Encouragement. What did it mean for the police? If they didn’t already know, it showed them that these cases aren’t worth their time in pursuing. What did it mean for the community and the man who had been fed up? Likely fear of retaliation, no relief, no justice, and the man probably went back to his next and past victims.
What did it mean for his victims? That’s the worst part. It told them they weren’t worth defending. Their rights meant less than his. Their pain and suffering was dismissed. And compounding that, typically, on Bussi Island rape and defilement complaints are handled by negotiation and compensation. Deal-making. Tit for tat. Victims are married off to settle things without all the fuss. All because the defenders of human rights in the Wakiso District, the Committee, had no way to bring the perpetrator to justice. No car.
Bussi Island and many other places in Uganda’s Wakiso District need access to police, to the courts, and to reliable and safe transportation. The Committee needs a car to help the people of Bussi Island and the Wakiso District. To defend their human rights. Can you help?
To donate, visit the Wakiso District’s Facebook page.