Outraged? Then let’s turn this rape into a good thing for women’s rights
Posted Thursday, October 24 2013 at 01:00
We must demand not just for the prosecution of “foreign investors” involved in this alleged rape but for the prosecution and investigation of all “domestic rapists” too.
A young Ugandan woman, age 23, was reportedly sexually abused by her employer almost a year ago. The matter went unreported for several months. When it was finally reported to the police, it entered the quicksand of opportunism and incompetence.
The passage of time was always going to make the collection of medical evidence necessary for a successful prosecution and conviction next-to-impossible. The legal effort was, nonetheless, further harmed by a bungled investigation influenced by bribes and inducements.
This story would be familiar to anyone who follows Ugandan public affairs even casually. We have come to accept this incompetence and corrupt state of affairs as the way our state and society works, not the way it fails.
Why, then, the outrage over this particular young woman? And what outrage! The Trade minister booked the woman into a private hospital room; the Youth minister put out an $800 bounty on the heads of each of the alleged perpetrators; demonstrators turned out at the said car yard with placards whose hand-drawn slogans dripped with scorn; and commentators have been thumbing through their dictionaries to administer ever more potent doses of adjectives to describe their anger.
Excuse me but we need to be a bit more honest here.
Rape is a heinous crime that can never find justification in societies that claim to be civilised. We must condemn it but we must also ask some honest questions about ourselves. Would we have been as outraged if the perpetrators were Ugandans and not foreigners? And would our xenophobia have been less apparent if the alleged perpetrators were British bankers and not some lowly Pakistani car dealers?
Twenty women are raped in Uganda every day – and those are only the cases that are reported to the police. In the 10 months since this hapless young woman was allegedly raped last December, 6,000 women have been raped in Uganda. By lunchtime today, at least six women will have been raped in Uganda.
Many will not dare report to the police because the perpetrators are close friends and relatives or people with financial and political power, or because the stigma associated with rape is a double burden that they have to carry the rest of their lives. Men do get raped too, by the way, but who can dare speak out?
Those that are courageous enough to step out from the shadows will run into a corrupt and labyrinthine police bureaucracy that strips them of their hope and dignity with only less violence than their attackers stripped off their garments.
Which police surgeon should a rape victim in Buyende or Buwekula go to? What facilities do they have to guarantee their anonymity or collect the DNA evidence necessary to procure a prosecution? What post-trauma counselling and medical assistance is available to help them deal with the physical and psychological effects of rape?
More importantly, however, where is our outrage over this daily shame? Where are our placards protesting against this, or the police spending billions on tear-gas stocks instead of DNA laboratories and investigating crime? It appears that we have been diminished as a people that we have given up on our pursuit of dignity and justice for all. Instead, we wait for the odd case that makes it to the front pages of the newspapers to renew our humanity membership cards with some outbursts of outrage and some placid placards.
We have outsourced our compassion and our Ubuntu to civil society organisations, professional activists, or rent-a-quote radio and television commentators. They speak for us, we say, as we sit back in our reclining seats of indifference. If we really care about these things then we must demand not just for the prosecution of “foreign investors” involved in this alleged rape but for the prosecution and investigation of all “domestic rapists” too.
They live in our homes. They are our relatives. They are our friends. They are the people snatching months-old babies out of their cots and defiling them. If we only throw our toys out of our prams when the perpetrators are dirty foreigners, then we are complicit in our silence, guilty in our indifference.
We can channel this outrage into lifting the veil of silence over rape in our society. Let us report every rape, support every victim and punish every rapist. This rape was a personal tragedy but we can make it the best thing to happen to women in Uganda.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @Kalinaki