Onesmus Twinamasiko, a member of Uganda’s parliament, sparked national outrage by stating in a television interview that men should beat their wives.
Twinamasiko was being interviewed on local television network NTV in response to the Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni admonition in a speech marking the International Women’s Day observances on March 8. Museveni said in his speech that “a man who batters a woman is foolish and a coward.”
That a legislator like Twinamasiko should express support for domestic violence is particularly unproductive, as Uganda continues to struggle with gender-based violence. Nor is it the first time a politician has made such statements. In 2013, the then Minister of Youth Affairs, Ronald Kibuule, said that women who are dress “indecently” were asking to be raped, and that men convicted for raping such women should be released. More recently, in January 2018, the US State Department asked Uganda’s deputy ambassador to the US, Dickson Ogwang, to leave the country after he had reportedly beaten his wife.
Recently, a female journalist recently broke the silence about being battered by her husband; the case caused an uproar on social media. Stories about domestic violence are also common fare in the country’s dailies.
The latest data from UN women reports that 51% of women in Uganda have experience “intimate partner physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime.” A police report quoted last year in The Daily Monitor showed a marked increase in deaths of women due to gender-based violence, from 109 in 2010 to 163 in 2016.
Twinamasiko’s statements are also surprising in light of the Domestic Violence Act that was passed in 2010 “to provide for protection and relief of victims of domestic violence; to provide for the punishment of perpetrators of domestic violence…” The act received massive support from politicians of both the ruling and opposition parties, religious leaders and civil society.
The online commentary from Ugandans highlighted the backwardness and wrong-headedness of Twinamasiko’s thinking:
This situation will prove a true test for the speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, who is currently in New York attending the 62nd UN session Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. Kadaga has said that the parliamentary Committee on Rules, Discipline and Privileges will investigateTwinamasiko’s comments and give a report to the House.