Responding to Community Human Rights Needs in Uganda

inline_353_ February 2011, Muslim Centre for Justice and Law (MCJL) a local faith based organization has been providing a number of key services in its effort to fulfill its mission of building a just and tolerant society.

The services include the provision of:
  • Direct Legal Aid Services with the aim of promoting access to justice in Muslim communities, most especially to Muslim Women in marriage and property rights.
  • Human rights awareness and legal education (in schools and communities)
  • Tackling and scaling up domestic violence prevention, plus Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) in Muslim communities,
  • Peace building and interfaith dialogue, HIV/AIDs Prevention and promoting linkages.

MCJL has done tremendous work in fighting for the rights of Muslim women and girl children. After identifying an increase in cases of domestic violence, MCJL launched the national campaign on violence against women. With a national theme “from peace in the home to peace in the nation”, this initiative called upon all stake holders to join hands, requesting all people to act in order to end gender based violence.

Domestic and gender based violence is a public concern, and not merely a ‘domestic’ or a private matter between two individuals. This has led to an acknowledgment that the responsibility for addressing domestic violence belongs to the entire community. This includes Imam/Sheikhs and their mosque committees.

According to the testimonies by some of the Muslim women interacted with during outreach operations, it is clear that they are facing gender based challenges in homes and communities and unfortunately, Muslim men justify their actions based on the Islamic heritage. Cases have been documented where male parents turn their daughters into sources of wealth through payment of bride price paving way for them to be regarded as property of their marriage partners who tend to be dictatorial and abusive.

In our engagements with the community, Muslim women have also been expressing their dissatisfaction with the manner in which authorities handle their grievances, saying in most cases when they run to them for help they are told to come along with their husbands which they find hard. In such instances, disputes cannot be mediated to their satisfaction so the center has taken up the initiative of equipping them with legal knowledge which they can use in case of injustices and the referral systems for checks and balances.