Ugandan Porn Law 'Punishes and Humiliates Victims' [blog] (allAfrica.com)

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  • February 23, 2015
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In February 2015, president Museveni of Uganda signed the Anti-pornography bill into law. During the passing of the Bill in December, legislators said pornography should be prohibited because of the dangers it poses to individuals, families and communities. Waza blogger Lindsey Kukunda believes that when it comes to ‘revenge porn’, the law criminalizes people who are actually victims.
In Khaled Hosseini’s book A Thousand Splendid Suns, set in Afghanistan, one of the female characters-a servant-had been made pregnant by her boss and ostracized by his family for it. She issued this warning to her illegitimate daughter.
“Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman”.
This is not an article about hating men. It is an article about society finding it very easy to hate women. Religion and culture have oppressed women for centuries. But when the law is allowed to fuse the two to really cement the business, society needs to do something about it.
Women-the source of all human life-are stripped of social power due to the potent mix that is religion and culture. There exist crimes of a ‘moral’ nature, detrimental to the purity of a society; prostitution, indecent dressing, driving… (You win, Saudi Arabia).
Does the law protect women?
I shall not mention their names because they have suffered enough, but over the past few months, several women celebrities have been victims of revenge pornography. This is when sexually explicit images are leaked without the consent of the pictured person, usually by a former partner. Uganda has an Anti-Pornography Act, thankfully. How does it protect these women, you may ponder?
It doesn’t.
Under the law, it is hinted that they are criminals and not victims. Below is a clause in the Act that describes what pornography is:
“Pornography’ means any representation through publication, exhibition, cinematography, indecent show, information technology or by whatever means, of a person engaged in real or stimulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual excitement”
This act, in my humble opinion, sadly uses religion and culture to do something truly horrible: punish and humiliate victims of revenge pornography. I use the word religion because the author of the act, Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo, is a former pastor, and a strong sense of religious morality underlies most of his work.
I use the word culture because after the act was passed, men were publicly stripping women in the streets, if they considered them indecently dressed. I was myself threatened with a beating in a market because one man found my shorts just too hot to handle. Incidentally, the Ethics Minister had included mini-skirts in the bill as pornographic material, before a public outcry forced him to remove it. If I hadn’t made a hasty exit from that market, who knows what would have happened?
Instead of sympathy, a police summons
So when a jilted lover or a dedicated hater decides to leak your sex video, you don’t only have to worry about the backlash from society. You have to worry about the law. Because no one understands whether getting jail time depends on if you leaked your pornography intentionally or if someone else did it for you.
You don’t get sympathy, counseling or justice. You get summoned to the police station to explain yourself.
“Police are looking for so-and-so to explain themselves” is the usual headline.
One of the victims understandably hid herself for some time, but eventually relented. I saw a picture taken by a journalist of the humiliated woman walking into the police station, answering to their summons.
Disgusting.
In almost every case, the women issue a mass apology on social media and in newspapers. It’s expected. That’s how unprotected victims are. Your private parts are strewn all over the media, but your fans, family and friends confront you for shaming them and forgive you after you have apologized.
Disgusting.
As I write this, police have issued new summons for a city socialite who jumped police bond after she was released on the charge of ‘trafficking’ pornography over a leaked sex tape featuring her. The police spokesperson issued this public warning ordering her to grow a pair and face the music:
“She should report to police with immediate effect before we look for her. We need to talk to her about the videos that were circulated on social media”.
Sounds to me like she’s been judged and sentenced already.
The Anti-Pornography Act should be re-written to eliminate any threat of legal action against victims of revenge porn and leaked videos. Women in that position do not deserve to be scared, hiding from police out of uncertainty. They need to know that the authorities have their back when society does not.
Social, cultural and religious bias should not be leading us into making unjust laws. Rather, the law should be guiding us towards a more just society. And this is not the case here.
Waza is proud to feature as part of its content local bloggers who have a knack for expressing their unique perspectives, independent thoughts and engaging stories. The opinions expressed here are those of the author. For more on moral and ethical influences on Ugandan legislation, check out this article on the anti-gay law, and this one on the legalization of abortion.