Domestic Violence, Too, Needs Space in the Budget [opinion]

Domestic violence is a reality in Uganda, we should not shy away from this fact.

According to the annual police crime report of 2013, there were 3,426 domestic violence cases in Uganda, a major impediment to the development of our nation.

Another 2013 report, Economic Cost of Domestic Violence in Uganda, indicates that government loses an estimated Shs 77bn every year to address domestic violence. This report was authored by Makerere University-based Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) and Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention (Cedovip).

The report indicates that service providers (police, local council leaders, courts of law, health care workers) spend Shs 56bn in handling domestic violence cases. Individuals, too, spend Shs 21.9bn in lost time at work and out-of-pocket money to respond to the effects of domestic violence.

This trend is eventually a major disabler to the economic growth of this country. It impoverishes individual survivors and their families, as well as their communities, and the nation at many levels. It reduces the capacity of victimssurvivors to contribute productively to the family, the economy and public life drains resources from social services, the justice system, healthcare agencies and employers and lowers the overall educational attainment.

Domestic violence has economic impacts on businesses, the government, community groups and individuals. These include the direct cost of services in relation to domestic violence and the indirect cost of lost employment and productivity. While government should be commended for the Domestic Violence Act, 2010, to support survivors in achieving economic stability, the vice remains one of the challenges affecting national development.

It has had its major effects on women and children, leaving them with physical, psychological and mental bruises. As a result, there is an increased actual expenditure by individuals, governments and businesses on goods, facilities and services to treat and support victimssurvivors and to bring perpetrators to justice.

Services include the criminal justice system, which entails dealing with the police, courts, prisons, offender programmes, the administration of community sentences and victim compensation. Others are health services such as providing for primary and hospital health care for both physical and mental harm.

There is also provision of shelter for refugees and social services, especially in relation to the care of children. Victims also get income support and other support services such as rape crisis counselling and civil legal costs such as those for legal injunctions to remove violent men from the home or otherwise restrain them. The cost of these services is mostly met by government or the public sector.

The other category of costs relates to reduced employment and productivity. Abusers may cause limited access to money, education, and employment of the survivors (victims) and make it difficult for them to survive. Survivors may be absent from employment as a result of injury or trauma, or may have their productivity reduced because of injuries and stress.

Further costs arise when women lose jobs either as a result of absence and reduced performance, or because they have been compelled to relocate. Both workers and employers face costs as a result of such disruption to employment. While women may lose earnings, employers may lose output and may face the costs of sick leave and of recruiting and training replacements.

These cost implications are real and can only be cut down if the Domestic Violence Act is implemented. The EPRC and Cedovip report of 2013 further indicated that by implementing this act, which has been on the shelves since 2010, we would save about Shs 68bn every year.

The report indicates that only about Shs 21.2bn will be spent on raising awareness and preventing domestic violence in communities and Shs 7.4bn in providing rehabilitation services, every three years. This brings the total expenditure every year to only Shs 9bn, away from the Shs 77bn that is currently spent.

Legislators should provide support and resources to victims and survivors of sexual and domestic violence, and ensure that abusers are held accountable. Funds should be allocated towards the Domestic Violence Act in subsequent budgetary readings. This will help create safe communities and contribute productively to the family, the economy and public life.

The author is a development practitioner.

Source : The Observer

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