UGANDA: For Uganda's Youngest MP Age Not A Deterrent, But Sexism Is

Wednesday, January 9, 2013
World of Women
Eastern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 

She was thrust into politics by default at the age of 20, and is said to be the world's youngest legislators in a country that ranks highly for female representation in parliament.

But for 20-year-old Ugandan MP Proscovia Alengot Oromait, it's not just her age that has been a big detractor for her critics. It's also her gender.

With a constitution that stipulates at least one female MP for each district in Uganda, and with 134 female MP's out of 385, Uganda ranks as 15th in the world for women in ministerial positions and 19th for women in parliament, ahead of many developed countries.

Despite these impressive figures female parliamentarians in Uganda argue that the numbers are merely a smokescreen, and say that sexual harassment is rampant in Ugandan political life.
Ruth Joy Acheng, a representative of Kole District, told The Independent that despite having party support, she feared that some would still sexually exploit Oromait.

And according to tabloid Red Pepper, five "sex-hungry male MPs...some, above the ages of her late father, are relentlessly making sex advances" towards Oromait, "despite the fact that she has on many occasions turned them down".

This is not the first reported case of harassment toward female politicians.

In April last year, Ingrid Turinawe, head of the FDC Women's League, "had her breast publicly squeezed by a police officer while being detained".

Another parliamentarian, Nabilah Sempala, had her skirt lifted up by a male officer while carrying out public duties.

"Behind the scenes, my colleagues who are in government come to me – fellow women – and say 'Nabilah, please, we don't want you to stay out late at night. Don't go out in Kampala. Try not to be a target because one time they'll rape you'," she told CNN.