“An innocent woman could have gone to prison”

An interview with Oliver Akugizibwe

Oliver Akugizibwe is a Project Officer with Child Concern Initiative Organization in Bundibugyo District, Uganda. Through the Paralegal Training Project, supported by Global Rights International, Oliver directly supervises paralegals in rural communities.

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“IT WAS AT NIGHT, a woman came to one of our paralegals complaining that her husband had battered her.  The cause of the complaint was that the husband got her phone and gave it to her co-wife.  When she asked the husband, instead of explaining to her, he started beating her.

When she reported to the paralegal, the paralegals were calming her, and they tried to call the husband, but the husband was still hot and he wouldn’t respond.

This is a woman who was breastfeeding.  It had been three weeks since she had given birth and her health condition was not fine.  She was supposed to breastfeed the baby consecutively for six months.

The man was saying that his wife had arrogantly abandoned the kid to go and practice prostitution.

The next morning the husband, to seek his own defense, went to the police.  He even announced over the media, “My wife has abandoned the kid…She has gone to do some prostitution and she has left the kid with me…Whoever comes across the wife should call me!”  He even gave out his number and said to call him for a reward.

When the paralegal arrived at the office that same morning – he came at 9am – he explained to us what went wrong and that a fight had raged. So I came in and I called the man.  The man came to the office with some policemen, whom he had gotten from his village police post, and their aim was to arrest the breastfeeding woman.

We tried to counsel them and sat them down.  When we started educating them and counseling them, the man ran to court to report the wife.  So I also escorted the wife to the court, I explained everything to the family court.  They told us to go to the Child and Family Protection Unit at the police station.

When we reached the Child and Family Protection Unit, the Madame, she’s called Adreu Margaret, she called me to come and explain what had happened, the case status.  I went and told her everything.  So she called the man, and the wife, plus other witnesses, including our paralegal, who had brought the woman to the office.  She also counseled them.

Then from there the man admitted and realized his mistake, that he was wrong by giving the second wife his wife’s phone, which was the cause of the conflict.

Had it not been for the help of the paralegals, the innocent woman could have gone to prison.

So this man was advised to buy milk for the child to start bottle-feeding, because the mother was supposed to continuously breastfeed for six months but couldn’t because of her condition.  So after three weeks and one day the child was stopped from breast milk and the man started supporting the child with bottle-feeding.

After our talk, he even apologized to the wife.  He carried the wife on his motorcycle, and they went and bought milk for the baby and everything that was required.  He even bought two bottles for breastfeeding the kid, and took the wife back into the home, and that’s how it ended.

But we are still monitoring it.  They are still together.  And by the way, the other thing that happened is that the other wife – who he took the phone for – she left him when she saw his financial status getting worse.  So now it’s just him and his first wife, whom he was battering because of the second wife.

For this particular case, had it not been for the help of the paralegals the innocent woman could have gone to prison.

Because the man was saying that the wife had arrogantly abandoned the kid to go and practice prostitution, which was a false accusation of the woman.  And even the police from his village post had agreed with him: they had taken his statement as if it was the correct one.

But with the help of the paralegals, statements were given from each side and the dispute was settled. ”

Oliver Akugizibwe, as told to Bremen Donovan

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March 13, 2013 | Namati Author