What would you do if on your way home, from a rather successful trip to the market, you were attacked by someone you know? What would you do if while you nearly bled to death with your head cracked open you looked down on the path on which you had walked and saw your fingers and hand and part of your arms?
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 needed more attention because of her mental disability. She also took on a number of other dependents including nieces and nephews and grandchildren. She struggled to educate them and clothe them 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. One 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 her 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 had 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. While Pasculina lay in a hospital bed and replayed horrific events in her mind, while the doctor’s words, “One more swing to your head and you would be dead,” run through her mind, Oketch had bail hearings that Pasculina’s family. With no witnesses against him, this man was released on bail. All this happened while Pasculina continued to suffer in hospital, before Pasculina’s wounds had even healed.
For the past two years, Oketch has roamed the village free as a bird unencumbered by his actions while Pasculina struggled to find a way to live a normal life. Without her fore-arms and hands, she feels hopeless because she cannot do anything for herself. She cannot bathe or dress herself. She cannot till the ground or feed herself. She cannot clean herself after using the loo. 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 but with her mental disability, 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 or clean or dress their mother. Pasculina has prosthetic arms but even those cannot substitute what she lost the day she was attacked.
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 defend her case have been too scared to come forth and speak up against her injustice after they too were told that they would meet the same fate that she did.
On their community training field trip to Apac early June, BarefootLaw’s WPRI (Women’s Property Rights Initiative) team heard about Pasculina’s story from one of the training participants. The team managed to meet with the sub-county chief who shared Pasculina’s tragic story and escort them to her home. Our team was able to do the little it could at the time, give her some financial assistance and buy some soap and cooking oil for her.
But it isn’t enough. It’s stories like these that cause BarefootLaw to wield the law with a vengeance and go out and share it with the public to empower communities. It’s stories like these that encourage us to work harder with projects like Women’s Property Rights Initiative, because we wouldn’t want another woman to get attacked like Pasculina and like her wish she were dead when the doctor says, “Any further and you would have been dead.”
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, something as simple as encouragement are often all one needs to get through the absolute worst of horrors in their lives.
The very brave and resilient Pasculina who is still seeking justice and continues the struggle, despite the odds. Barefoot Law uses technology to provide free legal support, information and guidance to the public. And once in the while, as in Pasculina’s case, a helping hand.