Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gender Issues in Uganda

Friday morning (5/27) -

This morning we went to the MUBS annex campus to listen to a talk on gender isses and the law by David Batema, a former attorney and high court judge. Mr. Batema began his lecture by asserting that law is inherently male because it is created by males and therefore has a male point of view. The consequence of this is gender marginalization, disempowerment, negative biases, and injustice. Before 1995, when the new Ugandan constitution was written, marginalization used to be much more pronounced. Only men were allowed to inherit land and money, legal standards differed for women and men on adultery, female teens who became pregnant while in school were expelled while no punishment was given to the father of the child, and judges used to question and examine women more harshly than men because women were seen as more likely to fabricate (Mr. Batema admitted to this himself). Before 1995 cultural and tribal influences, that in Uganda mostly favor the superiority of men, were strong. Gender was distinguished many ways - through various foods that were culturally accepted as being eaten mainly by males or females, in marriages where women were seen s as inferior to their husbands, in the workplace where women did not pursue jobs, and other areas. Mr. Batema went on to outline the changes in gender roles that have resulted from the new constitution, which focuses on creating gender equality and condemns the cultural and tribal practices that differentiate between gender. Under the new constitution females can now inherit land and money, have equal rights in marriage and divorce, have an extended maternity leave from 45 to 65 days, and every district is required to have at least one woman representative in which the language 'chairman' has been replaced by 'chairperson.' Affirmative action policies have also been adopted under the new constitution to help relieve the marginalization of women. Mr. Batema stated an example that in an application pool where a girl and boy have equal qualifications, the girl will be selected over a boy because the girl has more disadvantages in society. In addition, the new constitution prohibits cultures, customs, and traditions that are against the dignity and welfare of women or marginalized groups. This means that some traditions that are rooted deep in Ugandan tribes are now outlawed by the government. Challenges that Uganda stil has to face in gender equality are that men are still viewed as the 'bread-winners' of the family and are the main source of income and control many of the family resources, women are viewed as a homogenous category and not as individuals with ranging emotions and opinions, and the conflict between tribal and religious practices still present that oppose gender equality.
It seemed that everyone was engaged in Mr. Batema's presentation and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is impressive how far Uganda has come on the issue in recent years. Mr. Batema personally has had much influence in creating the new gender policies for Uganda.

What did the MUBS students say about Mr. Batema's presentation? Do they feel that gender roles in their lives agree with what was discussed?

Do you think it is ok that the government has outlawed certain tribal practices and customs in order to decrease the marginalization of women? What effects will this have on the deep traditons of Ugandan tribes?

Does the new Ugandan constitution show too much effort on behalf of women, to the point where it is almost hypocritical of trying to eliminate gender differentiation?

Does gender equality promote sustainable development?

11 comments:

  1. I thought that Mr.Batema’s presentation was extremely interesting. I liked the different view-points he brought up, for example, how a woman views something and how a man would view the exact same thing but so different. This was proven when he talked about the court case and the woman who would not say how she was raped but the judge said that she wouldn’t come right out and say it and therefore the man was innocent. I think that the MUBS students liked the talk and found it interesting as well. I think that the gender roles he discussed play a huge role in their lives. An example of this was when we went to the Bugandan Parliament and a female MUBS student had to kneel down to say hello to someone, while a male student just said it and shook the man’s hand. I think when it comes to the tribal practices being outlawed I think there is a fine line where some can be outlawed and others can’t. I mean those practices have been around for years, but I think if it interferes with today’s laws then they should be outlawed. I think that these laws being banned and not practiced may cause some problems for the tribes but at the same time those certain practices shouldn’t make or break the tribe as a whole. I think that there is a lot of leniency in the new constitution towards woman but I think coming from them having nothing in the constitution it is alright. I think that with the new constitution it does test the boundaries of gender differentiation but to me that is a good thing. I think that Ugandan woman need to be more respected and looked upon as equal. I think that gender equality does promote sustainable development in the way that woman can be in the work place and do jobs that men can do. With this more money can be brought into the household and more kids can become educated making a whole new life for some people.

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  2. Josie,

    I enjoyed your post on gender issues in Uganda. They are further along in granting rights to women than I initially thought. It sounds like you are learning so much and really expanding your horizons. We miss you at home but are amazed at what you are experiencing in Africa. Much love sent your way and to the entire group you are traveling with!

    Betsy Pokorny (mom)

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  3. This presentation was one of the most interesting ones so far. I was surprised at how much work had been done so far, and how much legislation has been passed on the behalf of women. However, I was very surprised at how one of the MUBS students felt after the presentation. After hearing all that Mr. Batema had done, and how things have started changing in the law and the courtroom for women, this student said that Mr. Batema is "a drop in the ocean." The same student thought that society would "sort itself out." With such obvious examples in front of him, I was surprised at how lukewarm this student was towards the whole issue. I think this shows how deeply ingrained cultural attitudes towards women are, and how truly necessary people like Mr. Batema are.

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  4. Mr. Batema's presentation on gender issues in Uganda was very informative, engaging and discussed with passion. Any man who is willing to stick his beliefs and get called "Sister Batema" is definitely a man worth listening to. The most memorable portion of this discussion was the part where he mocked men for saying "my wife does not work, she supports the him". He asked us to then make a chart for the daily activities these women complete, the item or profession that can also handle these tasks, and then to put a price on that item. Essentially, this shows how much a woman should really receive for her "support of the home". He described to us a woman's worth-and he really put things into perspective. I truly believe that if gender equality comes about in Uganda, women in the workforce has the potential to increase the sustainable development of the country simply because the workforce will be larger, will contain a diverse amount of ideas and new perspectives may be established. Mr. Batema's wife and daughters have to feel blessed for having such a man like this in their lives.

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  5. I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Batema's presentation. My passion being in my career in Human Resources I was surprised to see that Affirmative Action is something that is in place in Uganda. This is a big step in the right direction in equality for not just women but for all that have been discriminated against throughout Uganda's history. The problem is that the law is hard to enforce in the workplace which may mean that a lot of discrimination is still happening in the workplace when hiring those that are protected by the law. I also found it interesting that Mr. Batema called the action the law is taking, in regards to Affirmative Action, "positive discrimination" but those in the US would actually call it "reverse discrimination." My question is how can you have positive discrimination? After I reflected on this I reminded myself that at one time the US was in the same spot as Uganda in thinking that setting quotas in the workplace and in the educational system would make up for the inequality that many had in the past but we soon learned that this advantage for those creates "reverse discrimination" towards others so the US is trying to work on moving away from this type of action. My hope is that Uganda will also realize this and move away from what they call "positive discrimination" in order to truly develop equality in Uganda.

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  6. After talking to the MUBS students they seemed to think that the plan sounded great in writing. However, they said that in society as a whole support for these ideals is lacking. They even said that women will frequently allow themselves to be sexually harassed in order to obtain a job and that this is never brought to anyone’s attention. I think that equality is very much a societal issue and although we attempt to use political power to legislate these damaging beliefs from society, it is truly impossible. That is not to say that they should not place these political pressures upon society. In fact, I believe that it is necessary to place these pressures. However, these political and legislative acts are somewhat impotent.
    I believe that the constitution steps over the line with affirmative action. Mr. Batema called this “positive discrimination.” I feel this is an oxymoron. When you discriminate against any group in any way and make decisions based on the sex of an individual you are going against the very ideals and foundation of equality. The best man or woman should get the job or the position regardless of sex. There should not be any sex factor involved whatsoever. This is equality. In the end, affirmative action will end up hurting the women more than the men when they are seen as less than deserving of their accomplishments because it will be attributed to the fact that they are women.

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  7. I loved not only Mr.Batema's presentation,but also his passion and desire to do all he can to promote gender equality, especially,among the women in Uganda,who happen to be less advantaged.As the presentation went on,i noticed that so much gender inequality was going on ,in most of our daily lives and somehow because we thought it was normal or culture,we just sat and let it be!However,after the talk,everything changed,i started seeing everything in a different perspective and some questions could not help but flood my mind,like,will the Baganda for example ever have a female ruler?or after how many years will Ugandans take female heirs as a normal occurance?Even though alot has been done in writing,in regards to inheritance and all,there is still a big problem of actually seeing this come to pass.Alot of the Ugandans are either ignorant of the new changes in the laws or are too loyal to their cultural beliefs and practices that they have failed to see the numerous gender inequalities that lie clearly before their eyes.Unless all this is out of the way,those laws will be as good as nothing as i suppose they will only remain on writing!
    By Miria Angom.

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  8. Mr. Batema's presentation was very interesting, and I learned a lot from it about the culture of women's issues in Uganda. While all of the issues are very important and need to be addressed, I think there other cultural, economic, and government issues that need to be worked out before Mr. Batema's work will have more of an effect and be appreciated. Not to discredit any of his work, but it may be slightly ahead of the times. He is addressing issues in a similar way to the US, even though our economy and culture is more developed. It will be interesting to see how these topics develop in the future.

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  9. One of the things that struck me at the very beginning of Mr. Batema's talk was when he made the statement that a person's sex is determined at birth, in a black and white manner. Not everyone may realize, but in the US, we believe in more of an ambiguous sex. I did not learn about it until this last semester in a psychology class when we were focusing on gender identity disorders. About 1.6% of people are born with an ambiguous sex, in which they could be either male or female becuase they have a mix of attributes of each. Sometimes the doctors, in support of the parents, have to decide which gender the child will primarily be because they do any procedures right after birth. This 1.6% is the same as the percentage of red heads in the US. It just showed me the difference in mindset we have when it comes to homosexuality as well. It would be more difficult for them to believe in any deviations from sexual norm if they have a black and white kind of thinking when it comes to issues of gender.

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  10. Mr. Batema made some great points during his presentation. It's important to have people like Batema who address and stand up for womens' rights because too few feel that it is an important issue. Batema stressed equality. A man and woman are equal despite a few natural differences. The other differences that people see are simply "constructions in our minds." He used the common phrase, "behind every successful man, stands a woman," as an example for inequality. When a man and woman are married, they are standing side by side, not in front of or behind one another. So why is the woman placed in the back always? I thought this was a very interesting point. He also made the argument, "my wife does not work." Batema stated that the value of the woman's work can be viewed in three columns. The first should be dedicated to the activities she does: waking up the family, caring for the children, cooking, fetching water, etc. The second column should be the title of the activity, put a job or skillset next to it. The final column is where you put a wage or price for her work. In the end, you will find that the woman does do a lot of work and that she isn't rewarded or even noticed for what she does because of gender discrimination. Instead of saying my wife does not work, a man should say, "My wife works, but is not paid." This was probably the most important point Batema made. Women do work, but are often not noticed or appreciated for the work that they do. Batema has done a great job promoting his views and teaching the younger generations to fight for equality and gender rights.

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  11. Wow I just came across this because I am writing an abstract for my masters in gender studies,after 10 years in the bank I decided to pursue a career shift and gender studies augured well with my then situation as a victim of discrimination because I am a woman. The more I read the more I conspicuously I see the brunt of gender inequality present in our Ugandan society. The question is how to move beyond the rhetoric, how can we have more "sr" . Batema's. I am desperate to see cultural practices change in favour of women.

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