GULU, UGANDA, 15 JUNE 2005 – A new study on sexual and gender-based violence has identified rape, the sexual abuse of children and physical assault as being among the most common forms of sexual violence inside the Pabbo internally displaced persons camp in Gulu District, the largest and one of the oldest such settlements in northern Uganda’s conflict-affected districts.
Suffering in Silence: A Study of Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Pabbo IPD Camp, released here today, also finds that girls aged 13 to 17 are most frequently reported as survivors of sexual violence, followed by women aged 19-36 and children aged 4 to 9. In particular, sexual violence is a highly traumatic event that impacts every aspect of the victims life. Girls and women who have been raped are particularly vulneralbe to sexually transmitted infections and other physical and mental illnesses, the study says.
The report was commissioned in September 2004 by the Gulu District Sub-Committee on Sexual and Gender-based Violence, co-chaired by the District Community Service Department and UNICEF, to examine the causes and effects of sexual violence in the camp and to recommend measures for future interventions.
Key recommendations include strengthening district policies on sexual assault and gender issues, improving the quality of existing health and counselling services for survivors of sexual abuse and violence, and increasing efforts to promote school attendance and education in the camp.
UNICEF Representative in Uganda, Martin Mogwanja, said that additional priorities for the UN children’s agency and its partners would be to facilitate the reporting of sexual violence in Pabbo, improve response and referral systems of police and health staff and implement the district-wide use of an interagency guide on response and treatment for victims.
Progress will be made when everyone in the community commits to forming a protective environment to shelter children from harm.
“Tackling sexual violence, and particularly violence against children, means recognizing when a child is being subjected to violence and providing the child a reliable system of help to turn to. Whether it is in Pabbo or anywhere else, everyone must be at the frontline of this effort – parents, caregivers, camp leaders, health workers, teachers, counsellors, the police, district local governments, religious leaders and community groups, NGOs and the UN. All these duty-bearers must fulfil their responsibilities to children,” said Mogwanja.
It is difficult to conclude the actual extent of to which children and young people are subject to sexual violence,, but that incidents are “estimated to be much higher than the cases reported.” The report cites a “culture of silence” in reporting sexual violence cases due to factors such as distrust of authorities, lack of confidence in the judicial response and the fear of stigmatisation. The report cites overcrowded living conditions, alcohol abuse and restricted livelihood opportunities as some of the conditions that allow rape to fester in the environment.
“Rape is not only about the physical damage to a child’s life. We must remember that sexual violence can destroy that child’s right to develop, that child’s self-esteem and indeed, that child’s ability to become a good parent,” said UNICEF’s Mogwanja.
Pabbo IDP camp was created in 1986 and its current population is approximately 67,000, including 48,000 women and children.
For a full copy of the report, or more information, please contact:
Chulho Hyun, Communication Officer, UNICEF Uganda, +256 (0)77 222 347, email@example.com
Anne-Lydia Sekandi, UNICEF Media, Kampala 077 409016 (firstname.lastname@example.org)