Women’s and sex workers’ rights activists are protesting in Uganda following increasing numbers of violent attacks on women, including women sex workers. Groups report that kidnapping of women for ransom and murder have become increasingly common crimes in Uganda, and that there has not been sufficient investigation or justice for victims and their families.
In March 2018, Charity Kyomuhirwe was murdered and her body found in Kabaawo Zone, Nalukolongo in Kampala. The perpetrators are still unidentified. In May 2018, police reported 19-year-old Brinah Nalule had been kidnapped for ransom in a taxi at Old Taxi Park in Kampala, and subsequently killed by unknown perpetrators.
According to local police, 48 people have been reported kidnapped in Uganda over the last three years. The Uganda Network of Sex Workers’ Organisations (UNESO) reported that in 2017, 28 women had been murdered in the Wakiso district of Uganda, and that at least a further ten women have been killed in 2018. They also reported that several of these women were sex workers, and said they “grieve with the general public as these tragedies not only affect sex workers but the whole womanhood and innocent children of Uganda”.
Human rights’ activists have come out strongly to criticise what they say has been an inadequate police response focused on blaming the victims rather than solving the crimes. On 30th June 2018, hundreds of protesters March through the streets of Kampala demanding police action to stop this spate of violence against women. “We demand action and accountability for the rampant kidnapping, brutalising and murder of women in this country,” said Lydia Namubiru of Women Protest Working Group, which organised the demonstration.
UNESO and other sex worker groups in Uganda joined other women’s rights protestors in solidarity to condemn the murders and subsequent handling of investigations by police. On 26th June they released a statement calling on the government to “take quick, concrete and complete actions to ensure that all lives and especially lives of women and children which are currently at stake are well protected.” They also called on the police to launch joint investigations and introduce new measures for community policing that could help protect vulnerable groups.
“Today the Uganda Network of sex worker’s Organizations (UNESO) and the entire sex work fraternity in Uganda condemn the inhuman and degrading manner in which women lives are abruptly ended through the numerous murders and kidnaps that have recently befallen…"
…the state has failed to uphold despite its obligations under article 32 of the constitution to take affirmative action towards the protection of marginalized groups… All these inhuman attacks perpetuated towards women can largely be attributed to the laxity in the laws and failing state of security in the country. And when we talk about security we are not pointing fingers to the government alone, we are also talking about the vigilance of the populace to help in curbing crimes.”
It’s against these premises that the Uganda Network of Sex Worker’s Organizations is joining hands with the rest of the country in demanding for affirmative action by the government and collective responsibility by the citizenry to curb these escalating murders and gross abuse of women’s’ rights in the country.”