20 girls defiled daily in Uganda but we see no evil, hear no evil
Posted Thursday, February 28 2013 at 09:12
Ten-year-old Sylvia Suubi was grazing cattle with her brother when an unidentified man armed with a machete jumped them. He forced the little girl to the ground and raped her. Then he strangled her.
A few days earlier, also in Luweero District, a gang of men, also unidentified, had waylaid a 38-year-old mother-of-three, gang-raped her and strangled her.
Others were lucky to trade their dignity and innocence for their lives. In Karamoja, a group of soldiers gang-raped a young girl leaving her in hospital with injuries and trauma she will live with for the rest of her life.
The army contributed some money to the hospital bills and promised an investigation but soon moved on.
The first two stories from Luweero happened in the last week. You probably missed them because rape, which we dignify with the more sanitised term ‘defilement’, has become too commonplace to even raise eyebrows.
Yet rape and defilement are all around us. According to the official figures, 7,690 cases of defilement were reported to the police in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available.
There is a lot of stigma surrounding defilement, especially since family members and people close to the victims often do it. Most cases therefore go unreported. Yet even if you disregard the unreported cases, the figures show that 21 girls are defiled in Uganda everyday.
Another 520 cases of rape – most, if not all of them with women as victims – were reported in 2011. Again many victims choose to suffer in silence and do not report the cases.
Those that do step out and report rarely find justice. Only one in two cases reported leads to a prosecution and the conviction rate of those prosecuted is ridiculously low; most suspects are back in their neighbourhoods within a year of being arrested.
In the absence of a sexual offenders register, a teacher or a house help who defiles a student or a child in the home could be working in another school or home within weeks with the new employers completely oblivious to the lurking danger.
How many fathers and mothers go to sleep each night worried about the safety of their little girls? How many can trust that the house help, shopkeeper or schoolteacher is not a pedophile waiting to pounce?
Yet we hardly speak about this problem. Many who have found fame and fortune as moral crusaders have no time to see or hear the evil that is in almost every home or village. After all, while there are people willing to pay for attacks and for the defence of all sorts of minority groups, few are willing to pay to save the 21 girls who are defiled everyday.
Dear Reader, one of these days you might find yourself in conversation with one of those foreign types with a fleeting view of the world. When you mention Uganda the question will, almost invariably, shift to the topic of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and whether we are a country that kills gays. The correct answer is no, we are a country that allows the rape of our young girls to go on around us while we act indifferently.
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Kenyans go to the polls on Monday to choose between the best of two poor candidates. There are seven men and one woman in the race but the polls show that it is a tight race between Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta.
Both are children of the Independence movement in Kenya; Odinga’s father ceded ground to the older Kenyatta who became the country’s first post-independence leader; the two factions have not stopped fighting since, violently after the last election in late 2007.
Over two historic presidential debates that Kenya had Odinga come off as stuffy and boring, Kenyatta as eloquent but with the bloodshot eyes of a man you don’t want to trust with a pocket knife, let alone a country.