You always know it’s a bad sign when you are traveling in one direction, and you start seeing crowds of people running in the opposite direction. On my way back from the National Association of Women’s Organizations in Uganda (NAWOU) today, riots began to break out in the Old Taxi Park over a refusal to allow the Kabaka (the Bagandan king) to attend an event in Kayunga. This development was the tipping point in an ongoing power struggle between the central government and the Buganda kingdom.
Fortunately, my boda driver (motorcycle taxi) was able to deftly navigate through the crowds to return to CECORE’s office. From our sixth story office in downtown Kampala, we can currently hear strikers shouting in the distance, their chants punctuated by the occasional discharge of tear gas canisters and live bullets by the police.
The situation is quickly calming down, but it illustrates the danger of having a militarized city. As tensions escalated, private security guards brandishing semi-automatic rifles rushed out of office buildings and into the streets. I realized how a gun has the potential to suddenly transform a tense situation into a fatal one. When I first arrived in Kampala, I was alarmed by the presence of guns on every street corner. After three months, I had almost started to take them for granted, but today, I felt that same flash of fear, that same sense of vulnerability that I felt upon arrival.
I cannot imagine what it must be like for a woman to live with that insecurity every day-to know that her life could be extinguished at any second. Yesterday, when I met with Tina Musuya, the Executive Director of The Center for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP), she recounted stories of women who live in fear of armed abusive husbands. While these men may never actually discharge the gun, the psychological violence is very real. Musuya claimed that after an argument, a man may get out his gun and clean it in front of his partner, as a sign of dominance. She recalled another case of a man keeping a gun in the bedroom to prevent his partner from refusing sex.
As I finish typing this blog, the city has begun to quiet, but for the women living with abusive partners, violence is ongoing. They desperately need an ally in the form of legal redress through the harmonization of domestic violence laws and gun ownership restrictions.
Posted By Courtney Chance
Posted Sep 10th, 2009