Ok so I was going to wait a bit before writing about some of the ‘heavier’ issues here, but then I had malaria and had a few days to start thinking about things! So here is the first chapter in my musings on gender equality and feminism in Uganda…
It’s hard to be a white female in Uganda, with the constant hissing, whistling and shouting of Ugandan men following you as you walk down the street, at any time of the day or night. “My size! My size!” is a favourite of theirs, though I think what they really mean is “My colour”!
However, increasingly I’m realising how hard it is to be a Ugandan woman here too. Not only do young women get the same heckling in the street, but many have to endure even worse treatment in the home and workplace too, where they are treated like inferior citizens, just another piece of property for men.
Studies show that about two-thirds of married women in Uganda have been physically abused by a partner. Activists say the traditional practice of a bride price, where the man presents gifts – usually livestock – in exchange for the bride strips women of their dignity and exposes them to domestic violence.
Of course this is not the case for every household in Uganda, in fact the country has made great strides in gender equality in recent years and is currently ranked 8th in sub-Saharan Africa and 46th in the world for gender equality.
Even so, in December MPs were still able to pass a bill banning women from wearing miniskirts on the basis that it causes temptation for men. If the law is passed, it would outlaw any sexually suggestive material including TV shows, music videos, newspapers and magazines, and women wearing suggestive clothing or skirts ‘above the knee’ would be subject to arrest.
The President has until 28 February to decide whether the bill should become law and is under increasing pressure from the international community to veto it. Considering the number of women I see on a daily basis wearing miniskirts in Kampala (let alone on Saturday nights!), it seems very unlikely that the bill will be passed, but it is still shocking that in 2014 a law of this nature can even be considered.
As one interviewed woman said, rather amusingly, “It’s like they have nothing more pressing to worry about. Let’s forget about roads, schools, and clean water, because it’s certainly my thighs which are destroying the nation!” (Read the full article here)