For seven years Ugandan woman Jennipher Alupot was made to breastfeed the puppies of her husband’s hunting dogs. After drinking and smoking heavily, Nathan Alowoi would appear at the marital bed, bind his young wife’s legs and hands together and force the mewling animals to her nipple. In the morning, the husband would come and untie her leaving her scratched and swollen.
“My breast were swollen and I feared for my baby’s life”, says Alupot JennipherSource: www.actionaid.org
The husband had paid the bride price for her with 2 cows. So in his mind, he found it correct to use her as a cow to provide milk for the puppies.
He had handed over two cows to his father-in-law as part of the “bride price” for his new wife. So, he reasoned, if the cows were no longer around to provide milk then his new purchase would have to provide for the pups. “I had to feed them all through the night; then in the morning he would untie me,” his wife, now 26, explains matter-of-factly.
Her ordeal began out in the rural east in 2002 with the arrival of her first-born, a daughter called Achom. There was a reprieve with the second child, a boy named after his father as tradition dictates and thus protected from the indignity of having to share his mother’s breast with the puppies. But when the third child, another son, Olinga, was born, a new litter was brought to suckle.
That baby, she recalls, started having fits and foaming at the mouth. Olinga died just before his second birthday. “I think it could have been something to do with the dogs,” his mother says.
Jennipher had tried to resist her husband before and had alerted her own family, her in-laws and tribal elders to her suffering. She had even dared to go to the police in the nearest town, Pallisa. All in vain.
After her baby son’s death, she hoped her husband’s perversion might at least end. Then this March, she gave birth to another daughter, Apunyo, and the abuse started up once more, only more violently. One night when she protested, her husband pierced her with a spear under the chin.
This time she snapped. She fled to the women’s refuge in Pallisa. Not only did the centre – supported by ActionAid, one of the charities in this year’s Independent Christmas Appeal – give Jennipher and her baby daughter a roof over their heads, but they are also helping her bring legal action against her husband.
The case made front-page headlines around the East African nation, with commentators lining up to denounce the shocking abuse. A bill to tighten up domestic violence laws that had been languishing in the Ugandan parliament for more years, was rushed through last month. “That bill was passed because of Jennipher,” said Caroline Odoi, ActionAid’s coordinator in Pallisa. “Her case opened so many people’s eyes; it unblocked everything.”Source: www.independent.co.uk
“When it comes to matters of domestic violence there are so many gaps in the existing laws. In Alupot Jennipher’s case the result of the gaps has been that the court hearings have focused on child neglect, which of cause is extremely misleading”, explains Iceduna Hope, who is the Legal Officer at the Women’s Reception Centre in Pallisa.
Back at the women’s refuge, Jennipher is coming to the end of her seventh month there. Her case is currently before the Human Rights Commission, but if it fails there, she can seek justice within the framework of the newly passed Domestic Violence Act – which is simply awaiting the signature of President Yoweri Museveni to become law.
ActionAid are helping to build Jennipher a two-bedroom house, to which she hopes to move in the new year, and she is being taught to be a seamstress so she can support herself. As she cuddles baby Apunyo, she talks of her hopes for 2010. “My two eldest children are still with their father. I miss them a lot. I want just to be together with all my children again.”