GenderBased Violence & COVID: is ICT the way to go? | DHRLab

Brian Geoffrey Chanwat Aug. 18, 2020

Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is any act that results or may result in physical, sexual, or psychosocial harm or suffering to women. It is deeply rooted in gender inequality and continues to be one of the most notable human rights violations within all societies.[1] Usually, it is conduct for which dominance is sought at the expense of women, purely within a family setting. It is a vice that cuts across the society, from both the elite and illiterate groups in Uganda.


The figures arising from this violence remain alarming with many victims silently suffering without redress. The World Health Organisation (WHO) factsheet estimated over 35% of women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. [2]

On the same note, The UNHCR report in 2019 indicated that the most prevalent of all violence against women and girls in Uganda are rape and physical assault. [3] It is sad to note that this has existed for a very long time as indicated by the Police crime reports dating back to 2011 where several grievous bodily injuries and deaths have been hinted. Similarly, the 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey translated that more than one million women are exposed to sexual violence every year in Uganda.

Domestic Violence in the Covid19 surge

With the lockdown, people have been contained in spaces that have exposed them to Gender-Based Violence. Whereas this restriction is to prevent the spread of the Covid19, many adverse Human Rights violations were recorded.

Within less than 720 hours after lockdown, Uganda Police had registered over 3,200 cases nationwide. This forced the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development to issue serious warnings against the perpetrators.

Similarly in the region, Kenya has not been spared and has registered high numbers of Gender-Based Violence while implementing the lockdown. [4]

Of course, even with the lifting of some of the restrictions by the governments, Gender-Based Violence continues to quietly exist in both rural and urban homes.

Ugandan Laws in place

Uganda’s justice sector has seen laws equally applicable to all persons irrespective of gender. Violence in itself is criminal and rooted in the Constitution [5] which protects from inhuman treatment. [6]

The Penal Code Act [7] protects women through according them full and equal dignity of the person with men. [8] It also protects against issues of morality, marriage, and domestic obligations through penalising violence. [9]

The Domestic Violence Act [10] has also played a pivotal role in advocating for a Gender-Based Violence free society. It prohibits any person in a domestic relationship from engaging in domestic violence by clearly defining what amounts to gender-based violence ranging from physical, psychological, sexual, verbal, emotional, and economic abuse and instituted strict protections against these violations.

The Sexual Offences Bill [11], currently being debated is meant to criminalize sexual offenses by punishing offenders.

With all these laws in place, there is hope that perpetrators of domestic violence can be brought to book.

ICT interventions to curb Gender-Based Violence

Like many of the challenges in the typical Ugandan setting, there have been impactful innovations to prevent, expose, and mitigating the repercussion of Gender-Based Violence. We have witnessed active Ugandans and organizations innovate services to victims of violence with the sole intention of assisting for instance legal, health, psychosocial and other support.

Let me take you through some of the innovations that have played a key role in preventing Gender-Based Violence throughout the country.

SAUTIplus is an innovation by Reach A Hand Uganda, through its Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) program. This application focusses on GBV information services by offering quick answers to young people on matters of sexual and health rights through videos, publications, and podcasts. It comes in handy during this period with many restrictions some of which have seen several women and girl rights violated.

The Television drama dubbed ‘Kyaddala: It's real’, still produced by Reach A hand Uganda which broadcasts on television and YouTube also plays a key role in disseminating information on health, rights, Gender-Based Violence, teenage pregnancies and child marriages in Uganda.

The SafePal platform, a mobile, and a web portal that works as a reporting and referral platform for young survivors of sexual violence. The application links victims of Gender-Based Violence to psychosocial support within their communities. It has evolved and expanded its case management and referral system by directly linking women and girls to health care providers. The SafePal service will soon be extended to non-smartphone users through the use of USSD codes accessible by everyone and has been rolled out in most parts of the country.

U-Report is yet one of the oldest interventions in the communities. It brings together community members to participate in issues that they care about through a free SMS social monitoring tool where polls are sent to individuals known as U-reporters who in real-time respond to these concerns. In November 2019, they conducted a poll on understanding Sexual Gender-Based Violence among young people. [12] In April 2020, U-Report Malawi [13] conducted a quiz on Covid19 Gender-Based Violence and violence against children with the intention of clearing myths around the vice.


Much as Gender-Based Violence remains a threat in our society due to our failure to break the social norms against women and girls, it is good to note that with these restrictions arising from Covid19 have been addressed by the above-listed ICT approaches to remotely serve and solve particular issues affecting the vulnerable people.

The pace has been set in tracking and documenting violations right from the smallest family setting by directly linking victims with the right support that they need.



[3] UNHCR protection 2019 report


[5] 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda

[6] Ibid Article 24

[7] The Penal Code Act, Cap 120

[8] Article 33 of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda

[9] Chapter XIV and XV of the Penal Code Cap 120

[10] Domestic Violence Act, No. 17 of 2010

[11] Sexual Offences Bill 2019



By Chanwat Brian Geoffrey,

The writer is a human rights lawyer and team lead at Strategic Response International (SRI)