‘Bro-Code’ on Gender Based Violence

There is this man who was elected by women and men to represent them in THE PARLIAMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA and therefore to legislate and to oversee implementation of legislation in Uganda for Ugandans. This man has recently amassed significantly notorious headlines for his comment that it is okay to beat women as a way in which to “streamline” them.

Noticeably, there seemingly has neither been coverage of or comment from those women he has “streamlined” – the women in his life – wives, mothers, aunts, daughters and others, including possibly house maids and other females in his network. At least I have not come across such reporting.

It leaves me wondering what has happened to their voice and agency – have the women in that man’s life been so “streamlined” so as to become among the so-called voiceless?

But then again this is not the first Ugandan man to brag about “streamlining” women through beating and let alone doing so in the media.

On Women’s Day, 8th March 2018, I moderated the conversation on “Spectrum” a radio talk show on Radio One FM90 and a man, whom I don’t care to remember his name, called in and expressed exactly the same views.

Naturally, we, at Radio One, immediately clapped back and assured that woman-beater that we do not support nor encourage violence against women.

Many a Ugandan man has publicly expressed outrage at their fellow man who publicly shared his approach of “streamlining” women through beating. The outrage has forced the man to apologise and presumably to remember the ‘bro-code’.

Yes, sadly, the sanctimonious outrage from men mostly causes Uganda to allow for this scourge against women to quickly go back underground – as in it promotes the ‘bro-code’ of “men, met out violence against women, but don’t admit doing so in public.”

The sanctimonious outrage, even that which is being expressed by women does not allow for the much needed discourse to occur, in order to dissect and to analyse the root cause of the scourge and how it is sustained in Uganda.

In fact, at worst the sanctimonious outrage frames gender based violence as an issue that is primarily located in the realm of domestic physical violence. I dare say that it is feasible that the more widespread and the worst kind of gender based violence occur in the public realm – in policy design and in implementation of policy, for example.

The sanctimonious outrage does not allow our nation to internalise the fact that gender based violence has its roots in deep rooted misconceived perceptions of women as victims; and as lesser beings than men who must be subjugated by men.

And these deep rooted negative perceptions of women are not necessarily endogenous to African-Ugandan cultures, but have evolved with the global-western modernisation neoliberal school of thought.

Take for instance the finding of an empirical study on gender based violence in Eastern Uganda that:

“Beatings (of women) were routine and increasing in the 1920s as an important tool of Chiefs’ administration of order and cotton cultivation. None of this was traditional. The chiefs, their courts, and the regional divisions they administered were all twentieth century innovations, based on Ganda (Buganda) models … With Teso reporting that at least 926 women had been whipped by courts over the previous two years. All of this was illegal as courts lacked statutory authority for corporal sentences on women.” Carol Summers writes in “Whips and Women: Forcing Change in Eastern Uganda during the 1920s.” Read more of this analysis here.

Let us not be too quick to throw stones at that woman-beater, who is sadly also an elected representative of the people, who broke the ‘bro-code’ and revealed to us that the modus operandi of the 1920’s for forcing change in Eastern Uganda through beating women still sustains.

Let us engage constructively on how to dismantle that modus operandi, for it is clearly still wide spread.

Photo: An anti-violence campaign poster in Uganda.

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