International Human Rights is an incredibly messy, complicated field. But it’s the area of law I want to dedicate my life to. Oftentimes when I share my enthusiasm to pursue a career in the arena of human rights, I’m met with a grimace and, “Take that smile off your face and please, choose a different career path while you’re at it.” Honestly, I understand this perspective on some level.
I don’t think pursuing global justice could ever be seen as a simple or less challenging career path, but I also don’t think that gives me the mandate to throw my hands up and declare people suffering from a lack of justice as unworthy of my time, energy, or effort. Some of the hardest and most painful things in life are highly worthy of our time and pursuit.
I’m Jessica Sherwood and I’m a 2L serving as a student staff member for the Center for Global Justice. I’m currently working on a project dealing with Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in Uganda.
Intimate partner violence is one of the most prevalent forms of violence across Uganda, where, 68% of ever married women aged 15 to 49 years of age have experienced some form of violence inflicted by their spouse or intimate partner (Uganda Bureau of Statistics Report).
I champion and advocate for Uganda’s significant efforts and headway to enact legislation to provide legal rights for victims of domestic abuse and violence. These laws, including the Penal Code Act, the Domestic Violence Act, and the Sexual Offenses Bill, provide an incredible foundation and legal infrastructure to begin working towards reform for women who are victims of IPV.
Although I do applaud the beginning efforts, there is still much work to do as the bills listed above do not address significant issues related specifically to violence against women. Some judges and magistrates do not even own copies of the Act. The problem is furthered by the reality that some judges do not enforce the law even if they are aware because they consider gender-based abuse as a women’s issue.
There is a general lack of understanding and continuous cultural norms throughout Uganda that impose a duty on women to maintain a vow of silence no matter what takes place between her and her husband. Legal authority in Uganda has coined this term “a culture of silence” in which IPV is stigmatized and seen as secret.
I am honored to work on this project and discover how other African nations are addressing the issue. The progress is slow, but there is forward momentum. I am reading about how communities, legal infrastructures, nonprofits, and international organizations are coming together to continue to address the issue holistically.
I often think some of the most heinous crimes against humanity are held in secret. I believe we have an obligation to our fellow women and men to share the story and expose the truth. As Dr. Denis Mukwege, winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize says, “justice is everyone’s business.” I believe each of us is called in our own sphere and capacity to, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17).
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student staff member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.