UGANDA: Women to Get Pepper Spray

Friday, June 10, 2011
New Vision
Eastern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Young women will be given pepper spray to fight off rapists, the state minister for youth and children, Ronald Kibuule, has said.

Kibule, 28, who took office early this week, said one of his top priorities would be the protection of women against sexual crimes. "It's my role as state minister for youth and children to ensure that the people under my ministry are safe. I will do whatever it takes to protect them."

Defilement and rape are among the top crimes in Uganda. Last year, 7,564 defilement cases and 709 rape cases were reported, according to the 2010 crime report. The majority, however, are never reported to Police.

Kibuule explained that if women move with pepper spray in their handbags, they can easily use it to repel an attacker.

Although pepper spray was originally made from chili, synthetic versions are now made especially in Europe. When sprayed on an attacker, it causes temporary blindness, difficulty in breathing, runny nose and coughing.

Pepper spray is used in many countries for self-defence and riot control, but the rules vary from place to place. In Hong Kong, one needs a license from the Police to use it. In India, anyone can own the spray but its sale is controlled.

In the Philippines, you can simply walk into a shop and buy it. Across Europe, it is used differently, with some countries restricting it to security agencies, while others allow citizens to own it.

The Police spokesperson, Judith Nabakoba, told Saturday Vision that the Police would have no problem with the ministry giving pepper spray to young women.

She said the ministry would work hand-in-hand with the Police to sensitise the beneficiaries on how to use it.

In April last year, Police chief Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura disclosed that he had given pepper spray to female university students who had complained to him that some men were bullying them at the taxi park and Kisementi in Kamwokya.

He also urged the Government to start empowering young girls and women with devices for self-defence.

Kibuule said he would work hand-in-hand with the internal affairs minister to ensure that the spray is procured, stocked, distributed and used correctly.

Currently, pepper spray is not sold in Uganda. A supplier of security equipment told Saturday Vision that its importation has been tightly controlled.

"We only bring it in on orders because if it lands in the wrong hands, it can be misused," he said.

His fears are not far-fetched. In countries where it is freely available, there have been cases of people misusing it to commit offences such as robbery.