Crime against women: Uganda's acid attack survivors seek justice - GulfToday

Crime against women: Uganda's acid attack survivors seek justice

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Linette Kirungi gets on with her daily life as she was acid attacked. AFP

Gulf Today Report

Linette Kiungi, a Ugandan university student, fell prey to the gender-based violence in 2012. Every year scores of women across the world in one way or the other, inside and outside their homes, are victimised by barbaric incidents which include rape, molestation, domestic violence, abuse and the violence is rising alarmingly.

Acid attack is not only a common denominator in the cases. The cases are crimes of passion, perpetuated by stalkers who take revenge after their advances are thwarted.

Linette Kirungi’s life took an ugly turn, as she was acid attacked back in 2012. While on her way to class she heard footsteps behind her.

lenette Linette Kirungi, 28, poses for a portrait in her office in Kampala.

The next thing she felt was liquid on her face, but slowly the burning sensation became unbearable – then the fiery agony. 

She had just turned down a marriage proposal from her ex-boyfriend because she wanted to focus on her career first. He responded by throwing acid.

"I screamed and fell down, the pain was too much. The skin was peeling off," the 27-year-old told.

Acid is cheap and easy to find. Some just use acid for car batteries. It melts the flesh, sometimes to the bone.

Today, Kirungi works to support survivors of acid attacks in Uganda and close a legal loophole that allows attackers to easily evade justice.

In Uganda, 42 cases were reported in 2018 to the End Acid Violence campaign group, listing motives including jealousy and relationship arguments.

Many are swept under the carpet and go unreported, activists say, who are pushing the government to declare acid attacks a "serious crime" and police to take action.

together Close friends Reenah Ntoreinwe and Linette Kirungi are pictured at their local bar in Kampala.

 

Uganda's Justice Minister, Ephraim Kamuntu said he wanted to stamp out the attacks.

"We are working to see that a new law is in place to stop this crime," Kamuntu said.

But Kirungi, whose ex-boyfriend was never arrested, said that police lose interest if victims don't follow the case and once you fail to appear they will close the case.

"You are in the intensive care unit, and at times you find you even don't know what is happening," she added.

Survivors of the attacks spend months in hospital, often lose their jobs, and then end up homeless.

Reenah Ntoreinwe was accidentally splashed with acid in 2009 when two men dragged her friend Gloria out of the car they were in and poured acid on her. Half of Reenah's face is scarred. Reenah and Linette are close friends and they met each other as acid survivors, they go out together to their local bar in Kampala, visit other acid survivors and support each other when things get difficult.

tea-stall Jennifer Mutesi owns a small bar and makes enough money to support her four children.

Another woman, Jennifer Mutesi, had acid poured over her face in 2011 by a co-worker who was jealous of her success. She works inside her small bar in Kampala. She lost sight in one eye and she remembers that as the acid was burning her, people in the streets were filming the situation with their mobile phones rather than helping her. After a long recovery and trauma, she owns a small bar and makes enough money to support her four children.

"You fear people seeing you, If they see you, they are scared of you. And you cry, because of the pain, and your appearance," said Mutesi.

“It is not just a Ugandan problem. Such attacks happen worldwide,” she added.

ActionAid, an international organisation working for social justice, is trying to come up with a specific law that would see harsher punishment implemented for perpetrators such as a 'no bail policy', satisfactory compensation for victims and implementation of a medical care policy that would be paid by the government.

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