On Tuesday morning, one Radio Sanyu talk show took calls over the unnecessary comments by Youth & Children Affairs State Minister Ronald Kibuule, linking indecent dressing to rape.
One of the irate callers, seeking to sensationalise the issue with some disgusting shock-and-awe, asked what Kibuule would say about babies being defiled and whether it was linked to their diapers making them appear attractive.
My eleven-year old, listening to the discussion, was quite upset about it all – adding to the anxiety she was already going through over the terrorist attack and siege at the Westgate Mall.
Every day she got home asking whether all the hostages had been released, so worried she was, and one day I had to explain it all to her – starting with Al-Shabab.
And on Tuesday it hit me that Al-Shabab means ‘The Youth’, while Ronald Kibuule is Youth State Minister. Al-Shabab comes up with stupid arguments to justify their abhorrent barbarism, and Ronald Kibuule came up with a stupid argument to justify an aberration. This week, Al-Shabab slaughtered women and children, and Ronald Kibuule voiced an opinion which, if followed by anybody anywhere in the world, would kill the souls of many women and children in more ways than I care to think up.
My daughter was terrified by the idea of terrorists storming anywhere, and continually prays it doesn’t happen, but don’t ask me about how I explained to her what Ronald Kibuule said – I could find no entry point for the discussion. I preferred that she did not really know of his existence, let alone that of his views mixing indecent dressing and rape.
Indecent dressing does not lead to rape – to some it may be culturally wrong and irritating but it certainly is not reason for anyone to commit the crime we call rape; just as your being a non-Muslim is not good reason for a religious person to gun down you, your wife or your daughter.
Violence against women and children is one of those things we can never sit back and accept easily; if the terrorists at Westgate Mall had conducted a four-day exchange of fire with soldiers and policemen, we would have watched the engagement a little bit differently. But they targeted women and children, and took us over the edge because that behaviour is right over the edge.
I have known victims of rape and of domestic violence, and neither issue has ever been a good theme for a joke, in my view.
Initially, when the public outcry broke out, some asked him to apologise – and I advised the same, but not believinghe should stop at that. His apology would put voice to correcting a perception, but what did he really think about rape?
While trying to reconcile that thought with his explanation Wednesday that he had been “misqouted” and “misunderstood”, I came upon another Monitor news story from December last year titled, “Law On Dressing In Offing”, after Kibuule opened a Youth Camp in Kayunga District under the banner, ‘Inclusive Skilling For Employment and HIV/AIDS’.
In his speech, the story goes, he told the youth many different things including the warning that dressing indecently seduces men who end up raping or defiling girls.
If your mother wore a mini-skirt when they were en vogue in the 1970s, or your wife or sister does now, and you have daughters who will certainly wear short skimpies one day in adolescence, I can see you worrying.
To his credit just a little bit, shortly after being appointed in 2011 he said young women in Uganda would be given pepper spray to protect themselves against sexual crimes. Of course, this hasn’t happened.
“My role as state minister for youth and children is to ensure that the people under my ministry are safe. I will do whatever it takes to protect them,” he said then.
Again: Of course, this hasn’t happened.
Here’s my worry with him – he’s a young man of just 30 who should be a smooth, suave, savvy operator shining the path for our youth – 77% of Uganda – and giving us hope that we have leaders for tomorrow.
But this? He was just the usual politician showing up without speech notes written by professionals and technocrats synchronising thoughts with policy, the party manifesto and resources on the ground. Ergo the off-cuff casual comments that would work very well in a bar ill-fitted for intellectual discourse – much the same way that his colleague Father Simon Lokodo ended up putting Uganda on the map for being extremely interested in legislation over mini-skirts in spite of our having much more pressing developmental issues that could be articulated quite clearly by primary school children in General Paper essays.
Was his comment in line with the NRM principles or government of Uganda policy? Of course not – and neither does Islam endorse the waging of a Jihad that kills women and children!