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The College of Wooster

Publication Date

Fall 2015

Program Name

Uganda: Development Studies


This six-week study explores the justice-seeking power of women who have experienced sexual violence in Uganda, by examining a diversity of avenues used to pursue justice. The research includes three unique case studies: examining (1) the formal prosecution system in the rural, eastern region of Kapchorwa, (2) the internal judiciary framework within Makerere University and (3) the unique alternative projects being brought forward by FIDA Uganda in post-conflict Gulu and the greater Acholi regions. The study looks to understand and evaluate each of the frameworks for justice considering the extent to which they are able to serve survivors of sexual violence.

The researcher was simultaneously taking part in a practicum experience with FIDA Uganda. For this reason a portion of the research was collected through participant observation. Extensive insight was gained from the experience working with FIDA and observing their daily operations. The study was primarily conducted through the use of semi-structured key informant interviews, utilizing interview schedules designed specifically to engage the expertise of each informant. The study also includes literary analysis of rape cases, policies and laws. In addition, there were 4 focus groups discussions accompanied by administered surveys. The data collection gathered almost entirely qualitative data. As part of the research project, the researcher participated in a practicum/internship experience with FIDA Uganda. The internship involved shadowing lawyers, observing the day-to-day operations, interviewing FIDA employees and writing articles for the organization. The internship provided a platform through which the research was conducted.

Study findings suggest that women face systematic, societal, environmental and economic barriers when pursuing justice within any of the available frameworks. Although sexual violence is prevalent within Ugandan societies, women have largely abandoned their attempts to realize justice. Though few risk their livelihoods by speaking out about their experiences of sexual violence, most women who pursue justice are failed by the existing justice frameworks, which are unable to serve the needs of survivors. While organizations and policy makers have stepped in to improve women’s access to justice, women remain largely disenfranchised from systems that do not represent their unique role in society. Policies lack implementation, NGOs and traditional courts lack jurisdiction and survivors lack a knowledge of available recourses.


Community-Based Research | Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence | Family, Life Course, and Society | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Politics and Social Change | Women's Studies

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