After the previous post was written an incident took place in the town of Apac. This incidence is the illustration par excellence of my argument below that new ideas rarely come to Apac because of its geographical isolation and that a bridge over the Nile would transform gender inequalities more than any amount of civic education.
Here is what happened. In Apac in a bar or social hang-out one of the councillors of the district council of Apac is enjoying a drink, probably a soft one given the profile of this particular male. He eyes a young girl who is wearing trousers, the latter being, according to eye witnesses, not particularly tight fitting. Seeing a young Lango girl wearing trousers – a symbol of modern gender views, women’s independence and Western feminism – the politician runs over to the girl and tears her trousers off and tear them into several pieces! The girl, probably 13 years old, is left without leg wear but fortunately her sister, who is next to her, is carrying a bag with some clothes or cloth. A business woman rushes over to assist the girl. The councillor laments at women’s lack of respect and modern ways but eventually resumes his socialising with his fellow men while the girl at the centre of the incident is accompanied home, embarrassed, humiliated.
Stories, events and rumours run fast in Apac and before long the women of Apac were silently outraged. The following day many wore trousers in a quiet protest. The politicians continued his work, the District Council or its Chairman has not officially reprimanded their reactionary member, The Honourable Malakwang, Councillor for Apac Sub-County.
He is knows for his traditionalist and religiously purist views; according to some he is ‘tolerated’. However he is of course elected by the people of Apac Sub-County (which is not the same constituency as the Apac Town Council). And some people say that he is planning to run for Parliament of Uganda in the 2011 general elections.
The interesting bit about the incident is the fact that the girl, who was attacked by one of the relatively powerful men of Apac, is studying at a secondary school in Kampala, the capital city. Thereby she is exposed to new ideas, she is educated in a multi-ethnic setting and she is probably used to wearing trousers (when not wearing a school uniform, mind you), just like many women of Kampala.
The Apac Anti-Corruption Coalition, on their fortnightly talk show on Radio Unity of Lira, has received many calls from outraged citizens. However, neither the student nor her parents has lodged a complaint with Apac police, which would have enabled it to question the ‘big man’ over his un-constitutional practices. Gender equality in Uganda is actually constitutionally enshrined. But as with many post-colonial societies, there is a huge gap between the country’s body of legislation and policies, which is all very politically correct and liberal, and the conditions of life on the ground. Policies were not developed from the bottom up, but from the top down.
It does however seem like gender discrimination has left The Lango Sphere of Non-Issues and entered that of Unofficial Issues in Lango.