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Men against violence against women

by Lindsey Kukunda


In Uganda, female public-service officials are forbidden to wear dresses above the knee, sleeveless shirts or reveal cleavage, as such clothing is believed to “provoke” their male colleagues. In 2013, a bill was tabled to abolish mini-skirts, and the then minister for youth accused rape victims of inciting the crime by “dressing indecently”. If men commit a sex crime, the woman’s dress code is considered an excuse.

Even in the most drastic cases, the female victims are blamed. In April, a young mother left her six-year-old daughter with two men she trusted, and went out with friends until the wee hours of the morning. When she arrived home, she discovered that her daughter had been raped and murdered by the very men who were supposed to guard the child. But the public derided the woman, calling her “irresponsible” for choosing partying and drinking over her child’s safety.

But not all men take this stance. Bernard Ewalu Olupot is a social media celebrity and former radio presenter. He is known as the “Talkative Rocker”. He spoke out after the tragedy of the young girl’s death, castigating his fellow Ugandans for always blaming the victim. He asked men on social media to take a stand for violence against women.

“I have become tired of men abusing women with no repercussions,” he says. When he witnesses incidents of harassment, he approaches the man. He says he always gets the same responses: “It was just one altercation”, “I lost my mind” or “I was drunk”. Talkative Rocker says that “as men, we can challenge other men on this.” His point is: “As a man, I should be willing to go head to head with another man no matter who he is, as long as he’s been disrespectful, violent or inhumane to a woman.” In his experience, when a man knows other men will get at him, he will think twice before abusing a woman.

The social media star was raised to be protective around his sisters, and he would like other parents to educate their boys in the same way. “When your parents have raised you to know you never lift your hand to hit either a man or a woman, that sums it up,” he says. “Raise boys to respect human beings. A boy will respect a girl if he has been told to respect people in general.”

As somebody who knows the power of social media, Talkative Rocker suggests public shaming as a way to reduce violence against women: “Men who commit sex crimes against women should be paraded.” Newspapers should have a segment that serves this purpose, he proposes. “As men, we need to take responsibility,” he says. “We are tired of being lumped in with the bad guys.”  

Lindsey Kukunda is a writer, digital safety trainer and director of the civil-society organisation “Not Your Body”. She lives in Kampala, Uganda.
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