CSOs urge cultural leaders to abandon bad practices

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have called upon cultural institutions in West Nile Sub-region to abandon cultural practices that demean women and undermine their rights.

In a report titled Gender-based violence and teenage pregnancies in Arua which was launched on Tuesday, the CSOs said some cultural practices are being used to suppress the rights of women.

The report pointed out the Aruba culture that is widely practiced among the Lugbara community where women are not allowed to report cases of abuse to authorities with a belief that it invites curses upon the woman.
If one does so, she is then supposed to be cleansed and is ordered by the elders’ council to pay a fine.

The report was compiled by the Arua District Blind Women Association, Uganda Women Network (UWONET), Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa, and Community Empowerment for Rural Development (CEFORD).

During the launch, the chairperson of the Arua District Blind Women Association, Ms Mercy Ocotoko, blamed the abuse of women’s rights on parents who levy high bride prices on suitors of their daughters.

“It is terrible for parents to charge exorbitant bride price because this has fuelled violence in homes where a man boasts that he can do anything to his wife because he paid heavily,” she said.

The report also states that other cultural practices such as women not being allowed to own land, widow inheritance, and forced marriage, should be abandoned because they contravene human rights.

“It is sad that widows are still being forced to remarry against their will in some communities. They are also denied the right to own property yet they bear the brunt of most of the work and heading the families,” Ms Alice Munduru, the UWONET programme officer in Arua, said.

Ms Munduru said women and girls have continuously been denied the right to inherit property upon death of their spouses and fathers.

She said this is because family members still rely on ancient succession culture that favoured the male child to take over property owned by his father.

In an effort to abolish the cultural practices unfavourable to women, the Lugbara Kari Cultural Institution has drafted new succession law, denouncing of the Aruba culture and has launched a sensitisation campaign to persuade clan leaders and chiefs to abandon the old cultures.

The Lugbara Kari education and sports minister, Ms Suzan Ezati, said the institution has already made pronouncements on harmful cultural practices that could cause problems such as gender-based violence, among others.

Ms Ezati said they are targeting 25 harmful practices that contravene the rights of women and girls such as removing the lower teeth of women when they are about to get married.

“We are slowly spreading the pronouncements because of inadequate funds. But hopefully, we shall use various means to reach the communities,” she said.

The West Nile police regional officer-in-charge of Child and Family Protection, Mr Jimmy Baiga, proposed that the Arua City and Arua District councils should enact laws that bar widow inheritance, Aruba practice, among others.

He said once a law is enacted, it would give powers to the police to arrest perpetrators and prosecute them.