Major women organisations yesterday united to condemn what they termed as “appalling” and “inhuman” police brutality against peaceful female demonstrators outside the Electoral Commission offices on Monday. In a joint statement, 10 women’s rights organisations said they, “condemn in the strongest terms the brutality and undemocratic conduct of the government agents”.
“As we approach the 2011 elections, we are deeply concerned that this action by the police is likely to have negative consequences for women’s participation in and engagement with the political process for fear of violence.”
Addressing the press yesterday at the Forum for Women in Democracy offices in Kampala, representatives demanded that all charges against the women be dropped, the Inspector General of Police apologises for the officers’ actions, the police in future respect women’s bodily integrity, and that women have the space to engage peacefully in the political process.
On Monday, several women from the cross-party organisation, Women for Peace, clashed with police while demonstrating outside EC offices calling for the resignation of the institution’s chairman, Eng. Badru Kiggundu.
More than 35 were arrested and 27 were later charged with unlawful assembly.
Ruth Ochieng from Isis Women’s International Cross Cultural Exchange said the police needed to change their approach to political demonstrations.
“The arrests were very brutal… The police institution should move away from militarism towards a negotiating point of view,” said Ms Ochieng.
Solome Nakawesi from Akina Mama Wa Afrika expressed outrage. She said: “We are still in a situation when we have to argue that it’s wrong when a woman is arrested you see her panties. I don’t see men in that position. We’re clambering to reach a point when women are on an equal footing with men.”
Police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba said the police would not drop the charges against the women and that Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura would not apologise. “They may be women but they are not above the law,” she said.
She explained that the demonstrators had not informed the police of their intentions and had no permission to visit the Ec.
“Sensitive national data is held in the Electoral Commission. It could be an issue of national security.” She rejected allegations of excessive force, arguing that the women had defied arrest.