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65 days, and every district is required to have at least one woman representative in which the language 'chairman' has been replaced by 'chairperson.'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?