The Day Women Activists Choose to Strip in Protest to Police Brutality

May 18, 2012

Africa, Uganda

By: Yossa Immaculate Daisy

First it looked unbelievable and yet very real when one of the local television stations during the 9:00pm o’clock news on 23rd April continually showed scenes in which a police officer repeatedly squeezed the breasts of one of the opposition women leaders of Forum for Democratic Change. This was supposedly in an attempt to arrest and stop her from traveling to the venue where Activists for Change a political pressure group was re-launching their organization. It was this incident that has caused many well-known women activists and new ones as well to publicly protest the lack of respect in which Ingrid Turinawe, the survivor of the violence was handled. Many have summed it up as sexual assault and a brutal way in which any woman should never be treated.

Women activists however refused to be silent. The following day they mobilized and marched to the central police station in Kampala holding placards to protest what they called the police’s continuous brutality and demanded for the suspension of the police officer in question including the resignation of the Inspector General of Police for his apparent failure in handling peaceful demonstrations. Two of  the women striped to their bras as they informed the police of how they had brought  more breasts for them to press and squeeze if that was their new strategy of stopping them from peacefully assembling and expressing themselves. The behaviour of the police man in question has been regarded as humiliating by the minister of Ethics and similarly decried by other parties that have continuously called for respect of citizens’ right to free assembly. They also cautioned the opposition and civil society activists on remaining peaceful and within the confines of the law.

While Ingrid undergoes treatment for a swollen chest and a painful breast after the brutal handling, many Ugandans are locked in formal and informal debates about how far the government and the police will go just to stop the opposition. The incident happened at a time when a petition by the civil society leaders to the speaker of parliament is in the pipeline over what they have called ‘the systematic attempt by the state to use sexual assault as a political weapon’. In their plea, civil society leaders under the umbrella Uganda Governance Monitoring Platform want parliament to challenge all acts of brutality by men and women in uniform and also speed up the enactment of the Anti-torture bill, review the public order management bill and other bills attendant to the prevention of abuse of human rights.

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