Without consent, call it whatever you want, it is rape

Sunday January 12 2020

 

By Gabriel Buule

She had only gone to seek an employment. Yet what she got would alter her for good. In fact, even when she chooses to remain anonymous, it is still surprising that she can talk about the incident; at some point in the conversation, she is as casual, yet when she goes on, at least the pain in her voice is visible.
For this story, we shall simply call her Rita, she worked at a high end hotel in Kampala when she was called in office by a superior that later raped her.
“I wondered what he was still doing around that time of day and more so, summoning me,” she says.
When she got into his office, as she says, one command led to the next action and before long, it was just her, a locked door and her manager.
He raped her.
A trainee then, she tried to report the matter to her supervisor, but was bluntly asked to let it go. Later, she would learn that four girls that worked at the hotel had been victims.
Jennifer Alwoch’s story was never as different, on her part though, fate did her better than Rita.
While a student at a public university in 2017, she came close to being raped by her lecturer. “I was told that before I had joined University he had raped several girls and he would tell them that they would be dismissed from the university or subjected to retakes and non would open up.”
Afraid that her tormentor would ruin her future, she allowed to become a statistic, one of the many violated but never come out. Today, Alwoch is a community leader in Lira District northern Uganda, she says many victims of rape barely come out because there are consequences that come with the decision.
“Some will be judged while others will be stigmatised.”
Last week, rape became one of the trends on the Ugandan timelines after some people came out to name and shame their offenders, like a spiral, all sorts of allegations were flying around.
Leaving little unturned, they exposed from media personalities, banking executives to expatriates, yet even when such allegations like in the past have always led to hashtags and a call to have those responsible punished, reports show that rape is still on the rise.

Uganda and rape
According to a 2018 police report for instance, 1,580 cases were reported. This is 245 more than the 1,335 that was reported in 2017.
The report does not capture rape cases that were never reported. Neither does it capture those that were settled between families nor the victims that chose to keep quiet.
Further, the report shows that at least 644 cases were taken to court. Sixteen of these secured convictions, seven were dismissed, and there were no acquittals. There are 620 cases pending and 618 under investigation.
Another report, Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2016 shows that up to 22 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 had experienced some form of sexual violence. This translates to an estimate of a woman being violated almost every minute.
In 2017 and the beginning of 2018, Uganda police was under fire to explain the rampart violence towards women who most of the times were raped, murdered and later dumped in areas of Entebbe.
Police have always come out to assure Ugandans that they are doing all they can to protect their citizens, and away from the men in uniform, the Parliament has always talked the talk of formulating laws that preserve rights for all, regardless of their sex.
However, sexual abuse remains rampart. For instance, Africa Journal last year, during the 16 days of activism interviewed a female Ugandan parliamentarian they did not name.
In the interview, she confessed that on more than an occasion, male colleagues have attempted to touch her inappropriately; “I once had my breasts squeezed by a male colleague old enough to be my father. Another one hounded me during a trip abroad. He kept knocking at my door in the night. I had to lock myself in.”
Another politician, Monica Amoding too shares her ordeal of a caller that seemed to be groping his genitals while on a call with her; “I blocked him.”

Taking matters online
If there is one thing that will be remembered about January 2020, it will be a fact that women thought enough was enough and decided to shame their offenders.
With some adopting the already famous hashtag #MeToo, a local version, #MeTooUG was effected and only a few days, it has caught the attention of activists such as Nigerian Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi, founder of Stand to End Rape.
In a tweet, she wrote; “Sending love and strength to my Ugandan warriors and sisters who are calling out rapists and shattering the culture of silence. We see you seeking justice and we stand with you as lead the #MeTooUG movement to success!”
It had all started when one woman released a conversation with another woman who had been allegedly been raped by a media personality. What followed were more stories that all came with pictures of the said offenders.
Even those that couldn’t bring themselves to post about their ordeals had a safe haven in one Chantal Ruby Batamuliza Uwimbabazi, who used her social media accounts to receive many stories that she later shared.

Divided opinion
However, as more leaks have continued coming out, social media got divided with some people arguing that some ladies were out to mudsling either those that had broken up with them or had issues with.
Like all rape cases, this even with the social media storm is almost in flames because of the divide the stories have created among both men and women.
For instance, even when all accept that under no circumstances should anyone be raped, in the eyes of the victims, they seem to take steps back by arguing that a woman should not be going to a man’s house late in the night or morning, especially if the two are not in any sort of relations.
In a long Facebook submission, playwright and director, Judith Adong noted that people should take responsibility for the choices they make, for instance, showing up at your offender’s house at 1am and later getting intoxicated with him.
“The man who raped is a rapist; but the woman who made the choice to go to his house at 1am is not free of responsibility either.”
Yet she was still sympathising with those that go through aggravated rape noting that herself being a victim of sexual abuse, she believes more victims in her position feel spitted by cases of women that have decided to give men more power and thus becoming victims at the end of it.
In regards to the allegations on social media, most of the accused that have responded to accusations have maintained their innocence and others have even asked their alleged victims to produce evidence.
Some victims though say that at times, evidence is hard to gather, especially in situations where they are taken advantage of when they are intoxicated while it has also been said that those that tend to go through trials at times withdraw since they cannot stand reliving the moment almost on a monthly basis.
It has also been said that most offenders are well known to their victims that some trust them and believe they are not capable of any harm.

Kevin Kasoma (Business Woman)
Sometimes it starts with sexual harassment of all sorts and we fail to take actions as victims. Personally I was molested by a sales manager in a beverage company where a sales manager was pin pointed to have raped several women.

Naava Norah (Hospitality Manager)
We are fighting a nightmare which some women have given a platform, There is that kind of rape we grew up knowing where someone would be harassed in an aggravated manner which made most women conscious about who they move out with and where to be and at what time.
We are in a situation where someone goes out for a house party with people they do not know and they drink silly and they get rape. That is awkward!
Alright rape is rape and it is inexcusable but it is not fair for a woman to initiate rape. Women will lose the fight against rape if we don’t give a room to seek solutions before we get raped, unless it is aggravated.

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Pamela Keryeko (Artiste)
Rape is serious. Rape is disgusting. It is no small accusation and should not be taken lightly by either party. So if you are making it up for personal vengeances think about what it’s going to do for the women who actually get raped.
Also, you’ve gone to a man’s house at 1am, both intoxicated. You made that choice (to go to his house). Both of you take responsibility for your actions. Do not compare yourself to a six-year-old who has been kidnapped and held down by men stronger or a girl that’s been gang raped by a group of monsters masquerading as men.

Affirmative consent
While appearing on Morning at NTV, Makerere University Guild’s Gender Minister Marion Kirabo noted that even when there were reports of students being sexually abused during the campus riots, there was never a conducive environment for victims to come out.
She says that in the situation, female students could not go to the police, that were the oppressors to report a crime and hope to get justice. But she also notes that most policemen have a skewed view towards rape.
“There was this time we had a talk at campus and his first words were; “Don’t come to me reporting about rape, if you have been found in a boy’s room, cows are for milking.”
It is hard to work with a police force that has such elements that have already judged and passed judgement.
Kirabo says stigmatisation and shame on survivors has always stopped people from coming out, though she says that the shock and tremor that comes with it has always contributed to the silence; “people want to lock the incident out and try to forget it happened.”
It is said this is partly the reason victims usually withdraw from cases when they are still ongoing since they find the process of reliving what happened to them painful.
In many of the sexual harassment cases, evidence is one of the hardest to come by. Kirabo says this is mostly because sex happens between two people in secrecy.
Some men, she says are smart that just like you see some of the victims that came out, they were forced to shower after the act, which basically tampers with would be evidence.
“Others threaten their victims with death that the actual sexual act won’t leave bruises on the victim,” she says.
She, however, says the way is to have affirmative consent, a situation where all parties, have agreed and are willing to stop if one of the parties is not comfortable.

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