Sunday April 13 2014

Lira traders accuse new market managers of sexual harassment

Lira new market, whose construction is due for

Lira new market, whose construction is due for completion in June. PHOTO BY BILL OKETCH. 

By Bill Oketch

Several vendors in Lira District have accused managers of the new market of allegedly demanding sex from them so as to allocate them strategic stalls and shops in the new market.

In 2011, Lira Municipality authorities relocated more than 2,000 vendors to Coronation Park in Lira Municipality to pave way for the construction of the multi-million shillings market.

With the market nearing completion, the female vendors allege that the leaders of the new market are demanding sex so that they can be given a priority during the allocation of space.

“Some of us who have refused to give in to their sex advances have been kicked out,” said one vendor, who talked on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation.

She added that even at the temporary site where they were relocated, the demand for sex exists and those who refuse the advances have been thrown out.

Women speak out
Ms Nancy Akaki Opeto, a fruit vendor, pointed an accusing finger at managers of the various market associations and Lira Municipality officials.

Some of the associations in the market are; Lira Fresh Fish Association and Lira Fish Mongers Association, Lira Second-hand Shoes and Clothes Association, Lira Textile and Garment Dealers Association, Lira Drug Shop Association and Lira Butchers Association.

She said some women are traumatised by the experience.
Ms Caroline Adong, who deals in vegetables, claims that she paid Shs30,000 in 2011 to get a place at Coronation Park.

She alleges that when she reported the matter to authorities at Lira Municipal Council, her money was refunded, but she was later thrown out of the market.

Lira Municipality Mayor Morris Odung Omara condemned the alleged sexual harassment against women and urged the victims to speak out and seek redress from the higher authorities.

“Whoever is making illegitimate demands that infringe on the rights and the dignity of women, that person is doing it illegally and not on behalf of Lira Municipality officials, Mr Omara told the Daily Monitor recently.

Mr Peter Olwoch, the chairperson Lira Municipal Market Traders Association, distanced himself from the allegations. “We distributed the plots indiscriminately. We gave plots to those entitled to get them; no cash or sex,” Mr Olwoch said.

Construction of the market is funded by African Development Bank with the government of Uganda.
The construction, which is expected to cost Shs26 billion, is expected to be completed by June.