In the past three weeks, JRP’s Gender Justice Department has conducted dialogues in the communities of Adjumani, Pader and Lira districts. The dialogues are part of activities under a project that aims at ending re-victimization of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and providing redress for the challenges they face with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
The dialogues were an opportunity to openly talk about sexual violence and break the silence that surrounds it since silence around SGBV and the social challenges connected to it make women more vulnerable and often compounds their suffering. Due to the stigma that is attached to SGBV, survivors are usually hesitant to speak and ‘die’ in silence. It is this stigma that has contributed to the under reporting of the crime to authorities or to even family members leading to little or no interventions in communities. Stigma leads to a lack of justice for survivors and is also a source of other human rights abuses such as domestic violence. Opening community spaces to talk about what for generations has been known as a taboo is contributing towards the re-integration of survivors of SGBV in the communities.
A day before each of the community dialogues would begin in their respective communities, survivors engaged their local leaders so that the leaders are able to understand their plight and support them to cope and reintegrate in the communities. Issues that needed the intervention of the whole community were discussed the following day during the dialogue. Community leaders, who include clan elders who are respected people in the community and who play key role in changing community attitudes, then joined hands with survivors to talk to the community on issues such as stigma on survivors of sexual violence and rejection of children born as a result of sexual violence. Using drama and songs, survivors were able to communicate what would have otherwise been difficult to talk about given the social norms around sex and sexual violence that exist in their communities. Following the dialogues some community leaders came up with resolutions to handle re-victimization such as through by-laws dealing with stigma and which would allow for those who insult survivors of SGBV in the community to be arrested.
The community dialogues are aimed at undertaking survivor led engagement with the community and developing a positive attitude towards survivors of SGBV. This is to ensure that future transitional justice efforts towards SGBV are communally owned and supported. We are also glad to say that women in communities were dialogues took place last year reported reduction in stigma.