Uganda women protest topless against Police public groping of female politician

On Friday, Ugandans witnessed another episode of police brutality. It wasn’t just the brutality we are used to seeing.  In this video ran by NTVUganda  a police officer was, publicly before the cameras, groping an opposition politician Ingrid Turinawe.

Ingrid has been at the forefront of various pressure groups in Uganda for the last 5 years. She was one of the leaders of the Activists for Change (A4C), a pressure group that led the famous Walk to Work protests that took place in many parts of Uganda for the greater part of 2011 as the Arab spring was going on.

The group has been banned because in our country where we still use very colonial laws to the advantage of a dictatorial regime, the attorney general has powers to declare a group illegal even without evidence of  the need to ban them. This law threatens even a blogger or writers who mention A4C as government could claim that they are  promoting an illegal group  with intention to ‘incite violence’. Already two journalists have been summoned by the police over an interview had with the head of the group. Human rights groups have warned on the dangers of the government-increased crackdown on freedom of speech, expression and assembly in Uganda.

Once the group A4C was banned, some of its leaders rebranded it into For God and my Country (4GC), taking after the country motto. It was after the launch of the new group that Uganda police brutality came back to our living rooms.

This time a male police offer publically groping Ingrid as another pulls her leg out of the car. The police officer didn’t grope her once, he did it repeatedly and in the video we hear Ingrid asking why the police officer was doing that. One other police officer warns his colleague but does nothing to stop this.Storyful covered the initial reactions of Ugandans on twitter. On Saturday evening, in a move to do damage control Uganda police sent a tweet;

They didn’t even have the humility to describe the incident they were talking about. They wouldn’t even come close to mentioning this public sexual assault. Then later on the TVs came a junior police spokesperson to claim that the officer who groped Ingrid was a woman; as if a woman groping a woman is a lesser evil!

The  women’s movement in Uganda together with human rights activists wouldn’t let this pass. To be honest they have been quiet in the past regarding rights of women in the political sphere. Today over 15 women activist wearing only their bras staged a protest outside the Central Police station to call for the attention of the Inspector General of Police who has so far been quiet on the matter.

As expected they were arrested but their message was loud and clear! “We respect our bodies and we expect to be respected.”

In a country where investigations into sexual violence usually don’t easily go through, when you have a person in uniform sexually assaulting a woman the public outcry can only be louder across political divides . Respect is earned and if the police are to get respect of Ugandans they better bring such officers to face the justice system! Resorting to internal disciplinary methods when it comes such sexual crimes will only condone such acts and Ugandan public will not be satisfied with that.

As one human rights activist Nicholas Opiyo  posted on his facebook said:

 The loud silence of senior police authority (forget the casual speaking ad insensitive spokespersons) in the face of the brutal affront at the dignity of women lends credence to the suspicion of their tacit approval or condonation of such acts. The same happened to Anne Mugisha at Jinja Road Police Station on April 11, 2011, Nabilah Naggayi Ssempala and many other women. Enough to this brutality. Kale Kayeihura is a shame to this country

Many Ugandans through Facebook and Twitter wondered , if the police can do that to a prominent politician publicly, who knows what takes place when women are taken into custody? Ingrid is a woman first and a politician later; when law enforcers choose to use sexually humiliating tactics to curtail women’s freedom to demonstrate and question their government, all of us are not safe. When a country has armed forces with a history of sexual violence, this act of public groping of a woman politician can only worry us and hope we are not going backwards in the fight against sexual and gender based violence.

In the past we have seen shootings of civilians in protests and no officer is brought to book. In cases when the police are investigating themselves we can only wait to see what they come up with.

In 2008, the Uganda police arrested Kampala Woman Parliamentarian Nabilah Sempala in a manner that was meant to humiliate her and no one was held accountable. The country watched images of police officers lifting up skirts of a woman Member of Parliament. There was a little noise and we didn’t see much accountability.

In 2010 I had interview with Ingrid Turinawe who was at time leading a group of women calling for peaceful elections and accountable electoral commission. Ingrid and some women who were part of the group had reported the indecent way the police arrested them and again no much followup was seen.

If women have to worry about being undressed, groped and many worse things in their attempt to participate in politics then Uganda cannot claim to protect the rights of women.


I witnessed sexual terrorism, says Turinawe

“I witnessed sexual terrorism on Friday afternoon,” says FDC Womens League leader Ingrid Turinawe. I was driving to Nansana, Wakiso District for a rally, with a one Paddy and another youth.

We branched off to a supermarket as we approached Nansana Town Council.

We parked to buy some water with other officials, including Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, Mubarak Munyagwa (Kawempe mayor), MP Ssemujju Nganda and others.

We wanted to proceed but the police stopped us. They said we could proceed because Mr Lukwago had spoken to commander Andrew Kaweesi.

To my surprise, as I followed the mayors, police again blocked me and demanded that I come out of the car. They began pulling me out of the car while pressing my breasts.

I demanded for the reference directing my arrest but in vain. The policemen were rude and only targeted to torture me.

They overpowered me and dragged me into their tinted van. What was shown or captured on camera was minimal because there were men in that van, they pulled my hands from the back and pressed my breasts and pierced me in the feet while taking me to Kawempe Police Station. I even lost a nail.

At Kawempe, they brought me papers to make a statement which I refused because I was tired of making statements.

They released me on bond after writing one statement in the presence of Mr Lukwago.

They charged me with committing unspecified traffic offences.

I got friends to drive me back to Nansana to pick my car. Again, they held me at Nansana Police and declined to release my car, saying it did not have glasses.

Police at Nansana released me late in the night with the help of Kawempe and Nansana leaders.

I am now suffering because I have no means of transport to the hospital.

I have chest pain and my breast is swollen oozing blood. I was tortured at the hands of those goons in that van but there is no turning back.

By Ephraim Kasozi  (email the author)

Posted  Monday, April 23  2012 at  00:00

Police under fire over Ingrid arrest

Uganda’s police was last evening asked to apologise as it came under a barrage of criticism from women and human rights defenders scandalised by the latest assault of a female opposition activist by its officers.
Forum for Democratic Change Women’s League leader Ingrid Turinawe had her right breast repeatedly grabbed and fondled by what looked a policeman on Friday.

She was assaulted on her way to a protest rally in Nansana, outside Kampala.

Yesterday, the Kampala Metropolitan Police Spokesperson, Mr Ibin Ssenkumbi, insisted that policewomen carried out the arrest.

“But all the same, there have been concerns over the arresting exercise. The police are investigating the mistakes committed during the incident and whoever will be found in error will be disciplined,” he said in a telephone interview.

Women and rights activists described the treatment of Ms Turinawe as brutal, cruel and condemned the Force for violence against women.

Ms Betty Amongi, the chairperson of the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association, said the police officers targeted Ms Turinawe to humiliate her.

“It is an attack on her womanhood and the arrest was against the policy of employing women in the Force. We demand an apology and action against the errant officers,” Ms Amongi said, adding that this was an attack against women.

Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal and Ms Alice Alaso, the Serere Woman MP, described the act as painful, inhuman and evil.

“What Ingrid was given cannot be given to a prisoner of war. We have been hearing of women suspects being raped in custody by police officers and we were discounting them. But the man who handled Ingrid would have raped her if he had an opportunity,” Ms Alaso said.

Information Minister Mary Karooro Okurut, who last week protested to a local tabloid over what she felt was its undermining of women in a story about the alleged attractiveness of particular women MPs, was brief in her reaction.
“I am not aware of the incident but if it is true, it is a police case,” she said.

Opposition politician Anne Mugisha, in an email, stated that the incident was further confirmation of police brutality against protestors.

She said since April 2011, women at the forefront of the walk-to-work protests have come face-to-face with bare-knuckled brutality.

Ms Mugisha’s statement recalled how a two-year-old baby girl Juliana Nalwanga was shot dead by security men and how a pregnant woman almost died after being shot in the belly.

“Over time, women have remained active in the protests and police brutality against them has continued. However, the silence of the women’s movement over the treatment of these women activists has been deafening,” she said.
Ms Mugisha promising action against the police for allowing “this nauseating behaviour”, also decrying “sexual violence and any other kind against peaceful protestors.”

Mr Livingstone Sewanyana, the executive director at the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, regretted the dehumanising actions of police officers .

By Ephraim Kasozi  (email the author)

Posted  Monday, April 23  2012 at  00:00

Pader women decry slow pace of tackling nodding disease

A group of women in Bolo- Kwera village, Awere Sub County in Northern Uganda, have urged the government to assist them in eradicating the nodding disease which is affecting children in Awere Sub county, Northern Uganda.

The women, who gathered at the resident of Opio Pierro, decried the slow pace at which nodding disease was being addressed in the area.

Pila Adong, a resident in the area, said: “There are over 1,000 children with nodding disease in the area of Awere Sub county. Most of these also come from poor families and live in poor hygiene”

Mzee Luke Orach, another resident said: “There is only one medical assistant who serves the population in Bolo Village at the health centre II located in the area. All other women and people with complaints of ailment have to travel to Awere Health centre III.”

There is also a severe challenge in getting water. There is only one borehole in Bolo, located at Bolo- Primary school, which serves the whole village. The other borehole located in Awere is not accessible.

The vast majority of homesteads in Bolo Kwera do not have toilet facilities for proper faecal disposal such as latrines. When a village member was asked where one could get a toilet facility, he was told to move ahead in the bushes of the area.

Such a failure to provide faecal disposal units could be a cause of diseases such as diarrhoea and worms.

April 16, 2012 Submitted by kityojames