Let's get back to the drawing table.
Uganda has recently been faced with heightened emotions over rape cases reported in the media. They are not new cases, and they should not continue to horrify us. What is most striking however is the disconnect between this outcry and actual improved legislation. In March 2012, I signed a petition on change.org that asked the-then Director of Public Prosecution Richard Buteera to review the ruling in the Emin Baro case. Emin Baro had been on March 26th 2012 charged to two years in jail for “misuse of a computer” and he had been found with pornographic content that would have him at about 50 cases of child molestation. There was talk of nothing else in the media and other public spaces; the last recorded information I can find on this is in May 2012. The case had transferred courts over geographical jurisdiction. [New Vision, May 22th, 2012]
This happened only last year.
On August 31st, 2013, the body of nine-year-old Hanisha Nambi was found in an abandoned building. She had been defiled and strangled. Media later had a picture of the Minister of Gender Karooro Okurut holding a handkerchief to her face as she comforted Hanisha’s dad. [Daily Monitor, September 6th, 2013] It looked like she was distraught and needed comforting herself.
Even more recently, a 23-year-old was gang-raped three times [Daily Monitor, October 15th, 2013] by five men. She has lived in physical pain for two months and has found no justice, despite reporting to the authorities. The Minister of Gender is distressed again, and the country is horrified, and talks of little else.
These stories are horrendous and only a fractional representation of what many women, and men, go through. Everyone has feelings over this, but now is the time to take a firm stand on the issue. We need to be horrified enough to declare rape as an act impermissible in our society.
I bring into focus here the country’s Youth Minister Ronald Kibuule’s comments on rape. He had said someone in a miniskirt, if raped, was to blame. [Daily Monitor, September 24th, 2013] Kibuule said that he had told the Police Chief to not even listen to such rape cases and release the perpetrators.
We were horrified, our government was not.
It was ruled that the Minister had expressed personal opinions and therefore his office could not be held responsible. His office falls under the Ministry of Gender. I signed another petition, and I worried the uproar would die down. It did.
Emotion is good because when we stop being disturbed by these atrocities, that is when we have truly died. But it cannot stop there. We need to attack the structure as a whole. We need to go back to the drawing table and ask “What are we doing wrong?” and “What can we enforce better?”
We could start with statements from the Ministry of Gender, and Uganda Police Force, on where they stand on rape, and a resignation from Ronald Kibuule.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.