The Role of Language in Perpetuating Rape Culture in Uganda

I interrupt all normal blogging to bring you this post. We walked into this glorious year and decade with lots of hopes and aspiration. Most of us hoping for a more fair, safe and progressive world. But in Uganda as it stands, rape culture continues to prevail and women continue to be harassed without consequence whatsoever.

Over the past week, the conversation on rape and sexual harassment has been trending on twitter and Ugandan women have been coming forward to say #MeToo and point out their abusers. As it would be, most of them are people we see often, talk to, we’ve probably shared a cup of coffee or conversation with, we know them as “good” people. Which makes me wonder whether “good” people have never done bad things. What we need to understand is that sexual harassment is an issue of power and has nothing to do with how good or bad someone is. Men in your circles are as capable of raping a woman as any other man. So for you to come forward with that whole talk on how he is a “family man”, good friend, hangs out with females and he has never raped as a way to nullify allegations of rape makes you part of the problem. The thing about rape culture is that women are presented as if they were already guilty of something by being women. Women’s bodies are sexualised in that the way they dress is often misrepresented as consent. I remember last year NBS TV twitter updated that an “innocent” MUBS girl had been raped. This kind of reporting in itself implies that those that society wouldn’t describe as innocent in a way deserve to be raped but not this “innocent” girl.

The language used to talk about rape in Uganda is one of blame. Women are asked to bring forward unrealistic amounts of evidence before they are even believed in the first place. And even with the evidence, the perpetrators often get away with it because, and I quote’ “They don’t want to tarnish their reputations.”

The harassment of women is weighed against reputation and often times the abuser’s reputation weighs heavier. So I find it amusing when a woman comes forward to say she was raped by a man and people start demanding for evidence. What evidence do you expect from a rape that happened a month, year or decade ago… a sex tape?….Many of you seem to assume women walk around expecting to be raped, in Uganda probably yes, most women actually live with the fear of being raped. I read a quote the other day that “How come every woman knows a woman that has been raped but no man knows a rapist? ”

Abusers are protected by society. God forbid we affect their future, but no one talks about the things these women have to deal with every time they see their rapists walking around free and being glorified as “good” men. When we demand that women are believed, there’s also that clique of women and men that come forward with the “Not all men” and “Who will speak up for the men that are harassed.” What they demand is noble but my problem is that this conversation only comes up when women are demanding for their rights to exist as whole human beings. Which makes me believe that the intent is never to fight for “men’s rights” but rather to enable the culture of silence. I’ve always wondered how showing me your wounds is supposed to heal mine? If you are so interested in fighting for men that have been sexually harassed start your own twitter thread, organisations or whatever but don’t come to my table and tell me how I am supposed to go about my oppressor.

I digress.

Which brings me to how language perpetuates and enables rape culture. Since women are often presented with the burden to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they were raped, most abusers live free without the consequence of their action and continue to rape more women. These women on the other hand have to live with physical, emotional and psychological consequences of it. Proof is often asked for with the aim of acquitting the abusers. Like I mentioned in my blog post during the #16daysOfActivism, the law enforcement agents also usually trash rape allegations without any proper investigations. If a woman was walking in the middle of the night or at a party or simply existing it’s often assumed that she must have in a way consented to the sex. Men actually joke about how “a woman is dressed for them” when women wear more revealing clothing and use it as a justification for rape.

Privileged women and women who in their own right assume they are “good women” also perpetuate rape culture with how they talk about other women. Most of them will justify why a sex worker for example was sexually harassed because to them being a sex worker means consent. Privileged or middle class women that hang out with the rapists might not for example believe their husbands raped the maid and instead send her away for seducing him.

Talking about sexual harassment and rape often times stresses me out and For the sake of my mental health I’ll end this mostly jumbled post here.

If you are Ugandan, an apologist or enabler, this is a good time for you to go and read up on rape culture and sexual harassment as a whole. Go and educate yourself, instead of coming to conversation with that “please educate me” talk. Google has a lot of helpful information.

Bellows of love

©Tales of a Curious mind

20 thoughts on “The Role of Language in Perpetuating Rape Culture in Uganda

  1. This is a much needed conversation in these times. I completely agree with you on points raised and I commend the ladies that have leaped to bring this up to centre stage, it will help other women to be mindful and take care of eachother. @fionalaker thank you for saving lives.much love and respect

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rape is an act of power and Africa must change the narrative of African women. While in Liberia we ran a workshop on consent. If I tell you that some African men think that its OK to rape a woman because she has dressed ‘inappropriately’ not everyone will believe me but that is still the case in many African societies. Like you said there are rapists hidden in communities because some men think its OK to take a woman without her consent. The training course was an eye opener for me. One man candidly told the group that his wife had filed a police complaint against him because his wife did not consent to sex. Rape happens in the home as well between husband and wife. There is still plenty of work to do. Although I have stated that Africa has a long way to go so does the West as well. #me too campaign highlighted the plight of women in acting.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. It is sad that it is 2020 and we are still having these conversations. But the fact that we are intentional about speaking truth to power and holding rapists accountable in a positive step.
      And seeing people like you that are out there doing the work is a source of hope.

      power to you and aluta continua 💪

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love that you talk about house helpers and how they are always mistreated and send back to their homes because of being raped by the husbands.. I have heard about that situation so many times, you have opened up my eyes dear.

    Great post!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I feel the need to talk about them and sex workers because often times they are harassed and they stay silent.

      I feel like our activism is useless if it fails to address the issues of marginalized women.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. So true..

        I feel like we justify harrasment on sex workers and house helpers, as you said in the language that we use. We need to work on that..

        we are not really free if some of us are left behind..

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Laker Fiona, for saying it, pointing out the nuances many won’t want to shine eye on, that rapist seems normal or I know him therefore he did not do it , the reporting by media that makes it seem like some victims had it coming for them, the housemaids and sexual workers – how we are quick to judge them or refuse to seek justice for them & and how some men think the way a woman dresses is some sort of consent! Cheeyi!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “Men in your circles are as capable of raping a woman as any other man.” | “The thing about rape culture is that women are presented as if they were already guilty of something by being women. Women’s bodies are sexualised in that the way they dress is often misrepresented as consent.” What the fuck? First, judging every men like this is kinda unsophisticated. So, I looked at some numbers. It is crazy how many women get raped. It’s terrifying. However, thinking of how the actual situation of getting raped looks like, I wonder whether those numbers lie or not or how they were collected, when +-20% women (1 out of 5!) get raped. That’s a huge number for such action! We’re talking about using power to have sex with someone. It’s basically a fight! I gotta ask myself then, aren’t those raped women just trying to gain some publicity? Saying that “Abusers are protected by society.” – again, too unsophisticated, and eventually that’s why I gotta comment it. The author uses very weak-minded arguments, making it more like “I’m this little crying girl shouting to a wall and noone is listening to me.” I am not trying to instruct anyone what to do, or how to live a life, but jheez, you surround yourself with people you want to. Only you and nobody else. “In eight out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knew the person who sexually assaulted them.” Under raping a woman, I imagine some girl running through a park when a man jumps out of a bush and actually uses power to have sex with that girl. But still, it’s a big fight! Writing a blog post like this, the author should be more responsible for arguments and facts she or he is using. Not just using dogma…. |

    Liked by 1 person

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