Right to Freedom and Right to Abuse

Nearly one year ago, I wrote a post on Linkedin titled: “Uganda is Notorious Once More”, in which I shared my discomfort as follows:

What with DR STELLA NYANZI catapulting Uganda back to our status of that notorious country. Good God! I dread the next time I participate in international fora, and it is going to be soon. I will now be expected to answer questions on bukunya (nude) dress codes, nudity, exhibitionism, mental ill-health, the use of genitalia as a weapon of war and in discourse, etc.; subjects for which I have insufficient command to authoritatively provide rational answers. It will be hard for academics, such as I; women and who consider ourselves anthropologists … woweeeee!

Things have escalated since then, culminating to the current affairs. Colleagues and friends on social media, including men whom I know from reading their social media posts, who would not tolerate their own women – grandmothers, mothers, sisters, daughters, etc. – being insulted as such are asking me to explain why a certain man is so thin skinned that he can allow insults of his woman to rattle him that much.

Other times, some of my honourable male colleagues and friends, who am confident that within split seconds will put themselves in harms-way in defence of my honour are asking me to ignore the insults and pay attention to the issues. Yes, they have given me a challenge of huge proportion.

Then I remember how Rwomushana insulted female members of parliament for being like prostitutes and it became a huge issue – “a matter of national importance” no less, according to a female member of parliament as quoted by Daily Monitor.

Apparently:

Disregarding the host’s call for decorum … Rwomushana insisted on referring to female legislators as self-centred ‘prostitutes’.

Daily Monitor further quotes the talk show host, Mr. Charles Odongotho, as having said:

I didn’t agree with him and told him that’s not our standard. No one can anticipate what a guest is going to say on the show. You just have to control the limits, which is what I exactly did.

Mr. Oulanyah, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, a learned fellow – a lawyer by training – is quoted by Daily Monitor on the matter of Rwomushana referring to female members of parliament as prostitutes as having said:

The right to freedom of expression does not give anybody the right to abuse other people.

Yes, it is all so confusing. As I go through huge challenges of my own involving abuse of office by some in public office – in the civil service and in politics – those whose salaries are paid from the exorbitant taxes that I pay, I wonder if I and all other active citizens of Uganda should chose to hurl insults at those in public office.

But I choose to stick to that which my paternal grandmother, the one whom I am named after, Ajakait Joyce Mary Alinga (RIP), taught me. I dare say that if it was my grandma who was on the receiving end of such insults that are trending now, I wonder if I would not act worse than the devil himself; just saying.

Photo: At an international workshop in Nairobi that was organised and finance by the EDCTP.

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