News From Africa
Louise Livesey // 22 June 2007
Two interestingly different perspectives on women in Africa today. First up, women in Uganda are suffering health impacts after sexual violence above normal levels because of additional issues of poverty and bureaucracy.
When Maggie Samula [not real names] of Bufumbo in Mbale was gang-raped, she was unable to seek medical attention immediately. She delayed to seek medical attention because, in pursuit of justice, she had to record statements with the police. Three months later Ms Samula discovered she was HIV positive. She also learnt that she was pregnant. Usually, when sexual assault survivors report to police they are made to record statements after which they are issued with medical form 3. In the form the investigating officer requests the police surgeon to examine the complainant to confirm the assault. However, because there are not many police surgeons or doctors, victims are often asked to see a private doctor. Many do not do so immediately for the lack of money.
At the moment the medical profession and the law enforcement agencies offer conflicting advice – doctors insisting women should see them first and the police insisting the same. In the meantime women are missing out on receiving immediate medical treatment which could prevent HIV infection and pregnancy. However often a victim wants to “see assailants punished immediately and therefore spend more time with the police than the doctor” (From AllAfrica.com). And the Police deny there is a problem, Mr Taire Idwege, the eastern regional police commander, argues:
“There is no conflict here we have no problem with the survivors getting medical attention as soon as possible. In any case, the doctor’s evidence is the expert evidence to prove the case [sexual assault]”. He said police often seek medical attention immediately unless the offence is committed in a remote area where services are not readily available.”
Most sexual offences in Uganda, by far the most common crime in the country, occur in the rural countryside.
Meanwhile in Rwanda, women, we are told by George Kagame, are obsessed with power, domination and torturing men. According to Kagame “feminism has changed women today and made them so hungry for power and domination” (From AllAfrica.com) and this is threatening the place of men, something women are apparently showing “exceptional pleasure in”.
More disturbing, however, is Kagame’s assertion that women have ‘no morality’ and that they have lost their ability to feel and think at the same time. Women are sadomasochistic because they wear revealing clothes at work to torture men and take pleasure in this torture. Thankfully a response is forthcoming from Minega Isibo:
I was completely unaware that you could create a new world order merely through creative use of skimpy outfits. Evidently I need to read more.
Rwanda was the scene of inter-racial genocide in the 1990’s which left the population decimated. But more than that those women who were not killed in the violence suffered appalling sexual violence, rape and mutilation. Rape was used as both a tool of “ethnic cleansing”, to spread HIV infection to further decimate the population and as punishment for being of the wrong ethnicity. Children resulting from these rapes, or “pregnancies of the war,” “children of hate,” “enfants non-desirés” (unwanted children) or “enfants mauvais souvenir” (children of bad memories) as they are known, are estimated to number between 2,000 and 5,000 and this does not include those who were illegally aborted (with resultant health risks for the mother), those who were victims of infanticide or those just abandoned to die.
“As Rwandans begin the onerous task of rebuilding a country ravaged by bloodshed and genocide, the burden is falling heavily on Rwandan women. Rwanda has become a country of women. It is currently estimated that 70 percent of the population is female and that 50 percent of all households are headed by women. Regardless of their status-Tutsi, Hutu, displaced, returnees-all women face overwhelming problems because of the upheaval caused by the genocide, including social stigmatization [due to rape], poor physical and psychological health, unwanted pregnancy and, increasingly, poverty.”
From Human Rights Watch