What would you do if on your way home, from a rather successful trip to the market, you were attacked by someone you know? Picture yourself, bleeding profusely: with your head cracked open, you look down at the path you have walked and see your fingers, hand and parts of your arms, confused and scared; not knowing why you were attacked, where to go, what to do!
This is what happened to Pasculina Oming, a 60-year-old woman from Iceme, Lira District.
Before 25th April 2014, Pasculina had lived a rather peaceful life. Even after the passing of her beloved husband, Pasculina stayed strong and managed to raise her 7 sons and a daughter who suffers from a mental disability. Pasculina also had a number of other dependents including nieces, nephews and grandchildren. She struggled to educate, clothe and provide them with a home.
Pasculina’s deepest woes began when her neighbour and close in-law, Oketch, began to claim that she had encroached on his land. The LC in their village got involved in the dispute. When the matter was looked into, the LC ruled in favour of Pasculina, adding that the land on which Pasculina lived was the very same land that she had inherited from her deceased husband and he could not see any way in which she had encroached on Oketch’s land.
The dispute was laid to rest and all was well in the village… or so she thought! On the 25th of April, as Pasculina and her nieces walked home from the market, Oketch leaped out of the bushes with a panga in his hand. Before any of them could react, he had swung his blade aiming for Pasculina’s head. She raised her right arm to protect her head. The blade sliced the fingers clean off her hand. He took one swing after another determined to hit his target. And by the time he finally struck her head, Pasculina had lost both her fore-arms. It all happened so quickly! Her nieces, who had tried to defend her, rushed to her side, wrapped her wounds and rushed her to hospital.
Oketch went to the local police station, told the officers everything that he had done and handed himself over to the police. He was jailed and then later applied for bail. That night, Pasculina lay in a hospital bed, the horrible events of that day replaying themselves in her mind. “One more swing to your head and you would be dead,” the Doctor had said: those words echoed through her mind ceaselessly.
Oketch made an application before the Court and was released on bail. This happened while Pasculina was still in hospital going through a painful and slow process of recovery.
Without her fore-arms and hands, she cannot do anything for herself; she feels hopeless. She cannot bathe or dress herself. She cannot till the ground or feed herself…
For two years, since the attack on Pasculina, Oketch has roamed the village free as a bird unencumbered by his actions while Pasculina struggles to find a way to live a normal life. Without her fore-arms and hands, she cannot do anything for herself; she feels hopeless. She cannot bathe or dress herself. She cannot till the ground or feed herself. She cannot clean herself after using the toilet. She is helpless. She goes through all this while still trying to do the best she can for her dependants. She has her daughter who tries her best to help as much as she can being mentaly disabled, Pasculina understands that she cannot ask too much of her. Her sons do the best they can but it’s against culture for them to help bathe, clean or dress their mother. Pasculina has prosthetic arms but even those cannot substitute what was lost the day she was attacked.
Pasculina’s Prosthetic Arms
“and where is the law to protect this poor woman?”
As you read this, you must be wondering, “and where is the law to protect this poor woman?” Court hearings have been held over the last two years but they keep getting adjourned. The few witnesses that Pasculina has to prove her case have been too scared to come forth and speak up against her injustice after they too had their lives threatened.
On their community training field trip to Apac early June, BarefootLaw’s WPRI team heard about Pasculina’s story from one of the training participants. The team managed met with the sub-county chief who escorted them to Pasculina’s home. All our team could do at the time was give some financial assistance and buy some soap and cooking oil for her.
But it is not enough! It’s stories like these that cause Barefoot Law to wield the law with a vengeance: go out and share it with the public, to empower communities. It’s stories like these that encourage the Women’s Property Rights Initiative team, because we do not want want another woman to get attacked like Pasculina, to have to lie in bed at hight hearing the same tormenting words from her doctor: “any further and you would have been dead!”
WPRI Team with Pasculina and her Family
BarefootLaw wants justice for Pasculina. It’s because of this that we have stayed in touch with her and her family to make sure they remain hopeful and encouraged the witnesses to come out and speak up against Pasculina’s injustice. We have been reminded by our story with Pasculina that just being there, a few kind words and something as simple as encouragement are often all one needs to get through the absolute worst of horrors in their lives.