Sexual Violence: Should we target girls or boys?

Jan 17, 2020

To teach kites not to eat chicken is a little difficult and a longer journey than to safeguard the birds in a secure environment

By Emilian Kayima

While addressing sexual violence where the male species is largely the perpetrators, a police officer in Berlin, Germany once asked girls not to dress like sluts. That caused uproar in the great nation and beyond. It is said that a number of women expressed their discomfort and displeasure both in words and acts. They carried out demonstrations, with placards partly reading; slut wars!

In Uganda, a very senior personality in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social development (MGL&SD) questioned the dress code of girls in our Uganda, asserting that it partly contributes to the rising figures in as far as sexual violence is concerned. The senior personality argued that boys and men would interpret some dress codes as an invitation for a sexual act. Some men largely think like him. Almost everyone went up in arms with this senior personality, claiming that he was blaming the victims of sexual assaults that actually needed protection and empathy.

What cannot be disputed is the fact that many girls are slowly getting to dress rather indecently, and this grossly inconveniences and disorganises men around them. Some of the men they share offices with feel uncomfortable as some of these women leave nothing to the imagination, while they sit exposing almost everything there is to imagine, or they wiggle their buts seductively from desk to desk as if to tease men that are close to them.

It can be argued that to a great extent, these acts prompt some men to utter some words considered offensive, sexualized and abusive. That reaction needs to be understood before it is condemned.

Have you sat in a public place and you look in another direction having been tortured by what you are exposed to? Truly, some women shamelessly sit seductively, exposing their undergarments or nakedness and expect men to understand them. Some motorists claim that the cause of some motor crashes is the indecent exposure by some ladies out there.

When we complain rather informally, we are attacked by many women asking us what exactly we are gazing at, and why! Some ladies have the courtesy of calling us belittling names like "hunters', "scavengers" or "hyenas". Surely, isn't this being too insensitive, which hurts our feelings and affects our emotions so deeply? I think that this indecent dressing and unnecessary exposure of flesh amounts to sexual assault. Someone ought to protect the male species!

Psychologists have it on good authority that men are wired differently from women. Men are physical beings while women are emotional beings. We see and admire beauty differently and as a result, react differently. My honest word to the girls is; never tempt the devil.

No one has given me a satisfactory answer as to why these women put on skimpy dresses, and surprisingly, keep pulling them down, looking rather uncomfortable in the midst of many people gazing at them. Women that engage in this kind of dress code are usually cute, with good legs, smiling faces but sometimes with a guilty conscience that is often written on their faces. That isn't healthy at all. But the young ones call it "slaying" and they pride in the vice!

On 6th, February 2014, a new law on these indecent exposures was promulgated in Uganda. According to this law, pornography means, "any representation through publication, exhibition, cinematography, indecent show, information technology or by whatever means, of a person engaged in real or stimulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual excitement". Are these laws for all to understand and appreciate? They are for a selected few that have either studied law or are in the enforcement of the same. I doubt if half the population in Uganda knows of the existence of this particular law and many more.

In the fight to protect women against sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, some people have argued that for it to be effective, we need to change the strategy of telling the girls and women in general how to protect themselves and how to behave, then begin another strategy of teaching the boys and the male species not to attack and commit these heinous crimes against the girls. The Baganda of Central Uganda call women, "Bannakazadde b'eggwanga" (mothers of nations).

There is a concept of target hardening in crime prevention which I find effective. When likely victims are hard to attack, perpetrators often keep away. But to teach kites not to eat chicken is a little difficult and a longer journey than to safeguard the birds in a secure environment. We surely must speak to the boys and show them a good example but the girls need to double their efforts in the fight for their protection, our protection.

The writer is a senior Police Officer in Uganda and author of Taasa Ettaka Lyo and Raising Great Children.

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