Sex in Uganda’s work place: When the desperate vote with their legs
Posted Tuesday, October 22 2013 at 01:00
…you have a famous powerful widowed woman in a very high office whose target is young men who want to live in the fast lane. Whenever they come to her office for business, she cryptically asks if they are ‘good boys who know how to make mummy happy?
The talk of the town is the case of a young job-seeking woman who was allegedly gang-raped and sodomised by five men of Asian origin. If we want to meaningfully discuss the issues of sexual exploitation in the work place, we have to look at the economy.
Uganda has lived a lie for a long time regarding the state of our economy, which has reportedly been growing at an average of 6 per cent per annum for many years. According to Irene Murungi in a paper regarding new opportunities for social development in Uganda, 31 per cent of the population (8.4 million people) live below the official poverty line - surviving on less than $1 a day.
More than 75 per cent of Ugandans live on less than 2 dollars a day (Godber, 2007). Nine per cent of the people in the rural areas eat one meal a day.
According to the Uganda Chronic Poverty Report (2005), more than 26 per cent of Uganda’s total population (7.5 million) is still trapped in severe multi-dimensional and chronic poverty (where poverty is linked to inter-generational transmission: people are born, have lived and transmitted poverty to their children) incessantly from generation to generation.
With these ugly figures, it is obvious that we have a small cabal of people with a lot of wealth on the one hand and multitudes of desperate people wallowing in abject poverty on the other. Still, about 80 per cent of the youth are unemployed.
When an economy does not create employment opportunities, it means the competition for the limited number of jobs will be cutthroat. It then gives an opportunity to those in positions to provide work to abuse those who seek it. Those who seek work will often times need to engage in unethical behaviour and humiliate themselves to get work to survive.
This situation gives people with some money, especially foreigners, the leeway to masquerade as ‘investors’ who have come to solve the problem of unemployment. One investor told a lady who was seeking to act as a customs agent, clearing his vehicles and registering them that “I have so many people who come asking for work every day. I only give my work to those who give me gigi gigi!”
There is the man in one of the government offices that has a huge advertising budget. He is very clear about giving ‘his’ adverts to those who give him what he wants. He then rolls out to his target, names of advertising agents who are completing their apartments or who have just bought a car because of maintaining this good relationship with him. The pressure to deliver adverts in this limited and competitive market means that many have no choice but to give in no matter how qualified one is.
In this very town, you have a famous powerful widowed woman in a very high office whose target is young men who want to live in the fast lane. Whenever they come to her office for business, she cryptically asks if they are ‘good boys who know how to make mummy happy?’ Because we live in times where ‘success’ means a good car, nice clothes, smart phones, expensive gadgets and other pleasurable things, many young men will make ‘mummy happy’ as they pretend to be successful due to their hard work and acumen. For lack of space, we will not delve into the senior banker who promoted and took many young men to high places in the profession who found his demand for ‘same sex’ acceptable and bearable.
One outrageous one in the private sector had a boss with a positive HIV sero- status asking for sex in order to replace a faulty company computer so that the female user whose work is performed on a computer, would work effectively!
The solution is not the death penalty as some are suggesting. It is creating meaningful opportunities that make people confident of the fact that there is another better chance if you fail to work in one place. Even the job seeker must have the opportunity to choose and the job must be secured by her competence, not beauty or sex appeal.
The problem is that the current political situation is not about to encourage that. The only way a government as authoritarian and incompetent as the NRM can dominate Ugandans is by keeping them in a perpetual state of want and fear. They should be desperate and ‘good’, living quietly in order not to risk their job or contract or that of their boss. It should be a few people handing out these opportunities and those few are on a tight leash held by those in power.
The politicians who are shouting loudest about rape are only playing to the gallery as long as they do not address the political economic question that has put us in this position.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues. firstname.lastname@example.org