On 23rd April I went trekking through Mpanga Forest with a group of friends.
It ended well but was unaware of the trauma waiting for me later
My friends dropped me at Kobil petrol station after Kibuye roundabout to be picked up by my boyfriend there. When they dropped me, he had not yet arrived. After their car drove off, I found myself facing a hailstorm of loud, violent sounding, and leering screams from about 8 men who drive bicycles for a living. It took me a few seconds to realize they were reacting to my wearing shorts.
I asked one man why he was shouting at me and other men in the vicinity quickly joined him. There were so many that I could not decipher any word they were saying. Reader, I don’t frighten easily. But I was frightened. I was so scared my legs were trembling until I felt they could no longer hold my weight. I was worried these men would strip me if their excitement continued unabated.
I rushed to a traffic officer, politely greeted him and asked:
“You’re a figure of authority. Could you please try to diffuse the situation and ask these men to stop shouting at me until my boyfriend arrives?”
He glared at me with full on contempt and sneeringly said, “But isn’t that what you want?” as he looked at my shorts.
“What?”, I exclaimed. “You’re telling me I should be shouted at for wearing shorts? You’re telling me I want men to yell at me for clothing?”
He ignored me and I walked back to where my boyfriend was to meet me. I stood there and stared at the bicycle men as they continued their loud leering. The policemen then arrogantly beckoned me forward with his hand.
“What?”, I called out to him. “You’ve just told me that I want this. How can I trust you to come to you? What do you want with me now?”
He walked toward me and grabbed me by my upper arm. I was stunned into silence at that first touch. He then slapped my upper arm six times saying, “Get out of here! Stop disturbing me. Stop disturbing us. Get out!”
When I remained silent, he grabbed my wrist firmly and tried to tug me away. With strength I did not know I had, I violently pried myself free.
“Don’t you fucking touch me,”, I shouted at him. “Stay away from me and don’t you dare touch me again!”
But it was all the men watching us needed to see a man of authority telling them they had a right to abuse me further. A man selling watermelons then started shouting at me:
“Get out of here! This is my business. Get yourself out of here!”
“Why?”, I asked him. “I’m waiting for someone to pick me up. How am I affecting your business? I have a right to stand here and wait for someone.”
“Just get out!” he shouted.
I then run to a security guard who gave me his phone to call the Professional Standards Unit. The policeman I spoke to asked to speak to the traffic officer. When I approached the officer and told him an officer wanted to speak to him, he walked away without a second glance. The officer on the other end of the line asked for his name.
That was easy. The traffic officer, when I told him I would report him for abusing me, had arrogantly given me his name already.
“Go ahead!”, he shouted, showing me his name sewed on his uniform. “I’m Ainomujuni. Go and report me!”
The security guard then gave me a safe place to sit until my boyfriend picked me up. When he showed up, I broke down and cried.
I learned later that there was a police post just across the road and right around the corner. Ainomujuni did not direct me to these offices, so he deliberately denied me the assistance I needed. The right of Ugandan men to have licence to touch and abuse, and the right of authority figures to let their personal biases against ‘sluts’ help these men abuse me further MUST start becoming a thing of the past. In whatever capacity you can reader, fight against street harassment and police impunity.