Women groups have called for action against cultural practices that degrade women in society.
The groups comprising different civil society and women rights organisations say there is rampant violence against women and girls in addition to other practices including forced marriage, inheritance and denial of sexual reproductive health rights among others.
Addressing the press at Arua Social Centre, the women organisations raised a red flag urging the Lugbara Kari cultural institution to come out openly and condemn the Aruba practice to enable women be at liberty to report to police any kind of injustices and abuse against them by their husbands.
Aruba is a cultural myth among the Lugbara people that bars women from reporting cases of abuse to authorities with a belief that it brings curses upon women. The practice has been strongly condemned by both civil, religious and government institutions as being misleading and used many times to suppress women in abusive relationships.
Under the Arua District Women Network, the women demanded that the new succession law should be translated into local languages and widely disseminated to different communities through sub-county chiefs and community development officers.
“Women and girls have continuously been denied the right to inherit property upon death of their spouses and fathers by relying on the old succession law that favoured the male child over the female and widows”, Ms Alice Munduru from Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET), the lead partner in the movement said.
She noted that the new revisions in the succession law offer hope since some of the contentious sections were declared null and void but rued the lack of dissemination that has left many women discriminated against on account of ignorance of the public.
In response, the Lugbara Kari minister for education and sports, Suzan Ezatia, said the institution had already made pronouncements on harmful cultural practices in relation to HIV, sexual reproductive health, sexual gender based violence and maternal child health among others.
“We went to Lugbara speaking areas to do research because people have been complaining about these harmful cultural practices. So, we came out and identified 25 areas which are harmful particularly to women and girls” she said.
However, she quickly asserted that the pronouncements had not been widely circulated yet on account of lack of funds. But the minister was optimistic that the document would soon be disseminated to the public.
Ms Mercy Ocotoko from Arua District Blind Women Association regretted the ignorance and information gap in communities that makes people look at women as property for sale resulting into charging exorbitant dowry.
“All of us here have parents, aunts and sisters who have been in marriage or in cohabitation for over 20 years and they got children and yet the cows they gave as dowry could be one or two and yet they have lived well. So, why is it that we take the issue of dowry so high and believe that we must pay a lot as if they buy women?” she wondered.
Ms Ocotoko said cases of exorbitant dowries were mainly exhibited among people whose girl children are educated and yet educated or not, all the women give birth to children.
She urged stakeholders to work together to disseminate the new Succession Act in order to further advance the gains on women empowerment in the country in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Uganda women’s network has been implementing a spotlight initiative project since 2019 funded by UN Women – the project titled “Galvanising the strength of the women’s movement.” A voice and accountability has been carried to four sub-counties in Arua district as well as to Rhino camp refugee settlement.