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.
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