This is the joint website of  Women Against Rape and Black Women's Rape Action Project. Both organisations are based on self-help and provide support, legal information and advocacy. We campaign for justice and protection for all women and girls, including asylum seekers, who have suffered sexual, domestic and/or racist violence.

WAR was founded in 1976. It has won changes in the law, such as making rape in marriage a crime, set legal precedents and achieved compensation for many women. BWRAP was founded in 1991. It focuses on getting justice for women of colour, bringing out the particular discrimination they face. It has prevented the deportation of many rape survivors. Both organisations are multiracial.

 

 

 

How we won: Urgent appeal to women in prominent positions & women's organisations

We are asking for your help to protest against the shocking endorsement of rape by the Home Office, the Immigration Appellate Authority and the High Court in relation to Ms Rose Najjemba. A mother of five, she was violently raped during interrogation by Ugandan soldiers who accused her of selling goods to opposition forces while her son was beaten almost to death in front of her and then taken off by them (he has not been heard of since). Ms Najjemba has waived the right to anonymity to which all rape victims are entitled in order to fight for the justice and protection she deserves.

Ms Najjemba’s application for asylum has been turned down on grounds that she was not a victim of torture or persecution and that the rapes she suffered were merely “a very serious criminal act of sexual gratification”, “simple dreadful lust” but “extraneous to the political or military activities of the soldiers”. The likelihood that Ms Najjemba will be targeted again for rape and even murder, and the fact that she is so traumatized that returning to Uganda would itself constitute “cruel and degrading treatment” in breach of the Human Rights Act, have been dismissed. Even though the authorities accept everything Ms Najjemba told them happened, she is nevertheless one more “bogus” applicant.

We expect you will share our outrage at this sexist judgement, which goes against everything the anti-rape movement has fought hard to establish – that rape is a form of torture used to terrorise, intimidate and punish women. International law confirms this; it recognises rape as violence, a weapon of war and a form of persecution and torture, especially when perpetrated by soldiers or police in the course of carrying out an interrogation of women, regardless of where such interrogation takes place.

If Ms Najjemba had been violated in ways more often associated with the torture of men, such a ruling, which clearly diminishes the attack against her, would have been seen as cruel and perverse. But since the torture took the form of rape, repeated appeals have been turned down. Even her interrogation by soldiers – the context in which the rapes took place – was dismissed as insignificant.

Ms Najjemba’s treatment as a rape survivor is a stark example of how most rape victims are treated when we try to get justice and protection. It reflects a further brutalisation of the society generally. While the government claims to be strengthening the rape law on behalf of victims (most of whom never get justice), we are being asked not to care for, and even to be hostile to, rape survivors, especially those seeking asylum from governments which have good trade relationships with Britain, regardless of their human rights violations.

We particularly call on women in prominent positions for whom the women’s movement has made a way, and whose present positions, we are constantly reminded, help guarantee that women’s interests are represented. We need you and others to protest with us against the government dismissing any rape as merely “sexual gratification”, and refusing safety to any victim. We know that rape by state agents and other men in position of power and authority is particularly dangerous to report. We must therefore do everything we can to ensure that women who do report get the support and protection they need and are entitled to by law.

Unless there is an outcry by women’s organizations and women in prominent positions for Ms Najjemba to be allowed to stay in the only place where she feels safe, the government will have succeeded in using the “feminism” of having 101 New Labour women MPs as a cover for brutally sexist and inhumane policies.

To express your concern about Ms Najjemba’s safety and help stop her imminent deportation, please write to Immigration Minister Beverley Hughes MP (fax 020-7273 2043) with copies to David Blunkett MP, Home Secretary (fax 020 -7273 3965) and urge them to exercise their discretion to allow her the right to stay (cite Home Office ref no N1040416). Please send a copy of your letter to us (fax 020-7209 4761), and to David Lammy, who is Ms Najjemba’s MP (fax 020-7219 0357).

We will be glad to provide any further information. For more details see background paper enclosed and article by Natasha Walter.

We look forward to hearing from you urgently.

Sincerely against rape,

Sian Evans Anne Neale

Background of Ms Rose Najjemba’s case:
How the Home Office and courts dismissed her rape by soldiers as extraneous to their political or military activities

Uganda is known for widespread human rights violations, including the murder of an Irish priest and other church people who spoke up against the military brutality they saw. Many people are terrified of being accused of supporting “rebels” (armed opposition to the government) as this can lead to being tortured and/or killed.

Just over two years ago, Ms Najjemba was in the grocery shop she owned with her son in Kasese (near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo) when four uniformed soldiers came in. They searched the shop and their adjoining living quarters and accused her son and herself of selling provisions to "the rebels". They first interrogated her son, beating him so violently he began vomiting blood and bleeding heavily from a head wound – he cried out to his mother that he was dying. While two soldiers stayed with him, the other two took Ms Najjemba into her bedroom to search it; they repeatedly questioned her about the shop’s customers, then they both raped her, threatening that if she shouted for help they would kill her. They took her son away – he was unconscious by then and she has never heard from him again – she believes he died as a result of the beating she witnessed or was later murdered.

Deeply traumatized, and terrified that the soldiers would come back to rape and/or murder her, and that they may also attack her younger children if she went home to them, Ms Najjemba went into hiding in Kampala and then escaped to Britain (see attached article by Natasha Walter). She claimed asylum shortly after her arrival and was detained at Oakington detention centre where she could barely communicate with people or eat food. Her distress was such that she attempted suicide.

In June 2001, Ms Najjemba was referred by her solicitor to Women Against Rape. We diagnosed her as suffering from severe Rape Trauma Syndrome (a medically recognised form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) caused by having undergone rape, aggravated by having witnessed the brutal beating of her son and suffering the continuing pain of his disappearance. This diagnosis was subsequently confirmed by a Consultant Psychiatrist from the Traumatic Stress Service of the Maudsley Hospital.

But in August 2001, Special Adjudicator Mrs JE Nichols ruled that the rape Ms Najjemba suffered was not an act of persecution or torture by state agents, but simply soldiers seeking “sexual gratification”, and that she must be sent back. The Immigration Appeals Tribunal later reiterated that "the rape of the Applicant was extraneous to the political or military activities of the soldiers and did not engage the Refugee Convention." Sitting in the Court of Appeal, Lord Justices Latham and Simon Brown upheld the Adjudicator’s ruling. They dismissed the likelihood that Ms Najjemba will be targeted again by the authorities despite her being a witness to the crimes committed against her and her son, and ignored the trauma she suffered which makes returning to Uganda “cruel and degrading treatment”, in breach of Article 3 of the Human Rights Act.

Lord Justice Latham claimed the rape Ms Najjemba suffered was not persecution, but “simple dreadful lust”. Some of you may remember similar infamous comments made in the Holdsworth case in 1977 (An check if 76) when the brutal rape of a young woman by a British soldier was dismissed as not deserving a prison sentence because it would “jeopardise” his promising army career. Women Against Rape was founded at that time, fuelled by women’s anger and determination that such dismissal of violence and intimate violation must be stopped.

But here we are again. Neither has this been the first case since 1977 where a victim of rape who is demanding justice or asylum, is denied either. It is well documented that most rapes are never prosecuted and that only 1 in 7 of reported rapes results in conviction. The record for granting asylum to rape survivors is no better. Estimates suggest that as many as 50% of women claiming asylum are rape victims, most have been raped by soldiers or police. It is not known how many are sent back without even having had a chance to disclose what has happened to them, but the figure will certainly rise under the recent Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act which takes away most appeal rights, a crucial protection for rape survivors who often need extra time and help to be able to speak about their ordeal. The rulings that dismiss the rapes Ms Najjemba suffered as nothing more than lust express a still prevalent sexist view which is likely to have devastating and life-threatening implications for many other victims of rape.

Since 1995 we have worked intensively with rape survivors claiming asylum. We are often asked by legal representatives to interview women and produce reports assessing whether their symptoms are consistent with Rape Trauma Syndrome. We have helped many women to speak about the sexual violence they suffered which they had previously not been able to disclose to anyone, and get the treatment and protection they need. In 1998 we were instrumental in establishing case law which accepted that a woman suffering from Rape Trauma Syndrome may be “unable” to speak about her experiences immediately and in some cases for many years (R v SSHD ex parte Ejon) .

It is our experience that, when the facts are considered in an unbiased way, non-sexist conclusions can be reached. Special Adjudicator Catriona Jarvis awarded full refugee status to a Ugandan woman raped in detention, saying that “rape is never sexual gratification”, and quoting Deputy Assistant Commissioner Wyn Jones of the Metropolitan Police: “We want to kill the myth that rape is sexually motivated – it is usually intended to inflict violence and humiliation.”

However, over the past year, some Adjudicators seem more keen on facilitating government policies aimed at deporting as many people as possible, than on examining carefully the merits of each individual application, which is their legal duty. They routinely ignore the Immigration Appellate Authority’s own Asylum Gender Guidelines (published November 2000) which details case law and legal precedents establishing how cases involving rape and other sexual violence should be considered.

Some of our reports, based on 26 years unique experience in this field and widely recognized as expert reports, as well as reports from the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, which is named by the government as the expert on victims of torture, have been challenged on the grounds that our counselors do not have psychiatric qualifications. This challenge was made only after we succeeded in winning asylum for a number of rape survivors.

Shortly after, WAR’s grant was also cut by a block vote of New Labour councillors on the Association of London Government with no other explanation than that “we cannot continue to fund the same old groups.” More than 60 letters poured in to defend us and both Liberal Democrats and Tory councillors expressed concern for what would happen to rape survivors who are asylum seekers and/or have disabilities as WAR seemed to be the only organisation catering for their needs. They received no answer. Given the treatment Ms Najjemba has received so far it is clear that helping women like her is not only not a priority, it is to be discouraged.

17 December 2002
 

In a landmark victory, a rape victim from Uganda, has won the right to stay in the UK, a political precedent set by grassroots women

 

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