UGANDA: When Women Are Seen As Objects, No Girl Can Be Safe In This Society

Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Daily Monitor
Eastern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security
Human Rights
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Sunday Monitor of February 12, refers to a new report that has revealed that 20 per cent of city students are in the sex trade. Girls down to pre-teens are recruited into transactional sex. This comes on top of the survey published three-and- half years ago which showed that 40,000 girls in upper primary school were defiled annually by their teachers.

This information has not caused public uproar and tangible actions to do something about the underlying attitude towards girls and women. There is apparently a misinterpretation of Genesis 2, assuming that God made a mere toy for man out of Adam's rib.

Almost 2000 years after Christ treated women as equals and St. Paul wrote that it was not a question of being man or woman because all were one in Christ, we should have reached further. It is more than 135 years since these values concerning treatment of women began to become Ugandan.
But it seems that an older set of values tend to prevail.

It shows in many ways, the delay of the Domestic Relations Bill is one; many are comfortable with the male dominance and the handling of women as property. When women are seen as objects you can own and use for entertainment, no girl or budding woman can be safe.

Why has nobody concerned with the moral status of this country come out strongly in defence of these young people whose only fault is that they belong to the “weak sex”. “Weak”!? Anybody who has seen an African woman at work knows better than talk about her weakness. But so many of them have been indoctrinated in the “African value” of male dominance, that the opposing voices are hard to hear.

So little girls are recruited into sex work, not much older than those I take to school every morning, it is a frightening thought. It is just as appalling as defilement of girls in upper primary, add those in secondary schools and other unreported cases and you come to incredible numbers. With the new report referred to in Sunday Monitor, it is safe to say that every 10 minutes on an average, more than one underage girl is sexually molested.

How does that relate to “African values”?
The number of girls and young women who get their lives destroyed per year through sexual abuse is big; a very conservative estimate will arrive at 50 – 60 000. The figure is equivalent to the population of a sizeable town.

I challenge the church, all denominations, to defend this town and heal its wounds. No movement could be more important than one to counter the evil of sexual abuse and promote the understanding of the inviolability of women's integrity.

A newspaper crusade is useless, too few read them, TV is not very effective either, there are too few sets, FM radio is better, but nothing could match a campaign from the thousands of pulpits in the country.

Ugandans go to church and if they got this message not once but every Sunday that girls and women are not items for men's entertainment, some change might eventually occur.

The resounding silence that has prevailed so far, while non-issues catch the attention and even get their own Bill tabled in Parliament, is distressing, to put it mildly.