When I was in my first year at university, perhaps a month into semester two, a pornographic video made the rounds of hostels and lecture rooms. It showed one Moses in the act of raping a girl on the wet floor of a bathroom in Nana Hostel. The girl’s face was slack. Her eyes were half open, but non-focused. She looked stiff, like she was dead.
The rapist was being cheered on by his friend, who was hooting with laughter, while trying to hold his recording device steady. When I heard the laugh, I recognized it immediately. It belonged to a boy I had gone to school with, all the way from St. Kizito, to Greenhill Academy, to Macos. And now we were both in Makerere University and he had turned into the kind of monster who could participate in rape.
Moses was eventually taken to the authorities, but the young lady came to his defense, or something like that. When I get to this part of the story, people usually say, “OH! So she wasn’t raped. Ah, if she defended him, of course she wasn’t raped.”
This story haunts me. I think about it whenever yet another rape is reported on the News. The depressing thing is that for every rape that makes front page news, countless others are covered up.
Are not reported.
Are made to disappear by the exchange of shillings, as if money can take away the toxicity that has been introduced into the victim’s life and psyche.
I always ask myself what I would have done, if I had the agency then that I do now. Would I have allowed the story to just disappear? Am I even any more powerful than my 20-year-old self? Sure, I sign petitions, blog, and make a lot of noise on social media now, but how would that have affected the way this violation was dealt with at the time?
Not so long ago, I was discussing the story of the 23-year-old girl who got kidnapped and forced into sex slavery by her Pakistani boyfriend and five other men. This was when when information had just come up nti the victim had actually been dating one of the men. Also that she had apparently told some lies to the people in Mulago Hospital.
One jama took the opportunity to denounce rape victims in general, and went on to declare that the story had been completely altered by this new information. He was basically dismissing it, as if liars do not get raped. As if, eh, now we should move on to other stories because women over lie about things.
As a society, we are so desperate to sweep things under carpets. We are so eager to forget things that make us uncomfortable. We can drink our Uganda waragi and discussing “thirst” day in day out, but bring a story that makes us have to mourn and act against the ugliness in our society and we are eager to change the subject.
We live in a city where you can be dragged away from a taxi stage at 10pm in the night while people just look on. The boda men at the stage? The people zooming past in cars? They will do nothing. Nothing! And leaders like Ronald Kibuule continue to encourage rape and victim blaming with zero repercussions.
What is to be done, apart from taking our safety and protection into our own hands?
I have started , Fitclique256 a fitness company (to be). At its height of maturity, I intend for it to be a mass fitness and strength program for women who reside in Kampala city. For now, it is an all-inclusive Facebook community and I’m happy to say that it has inspired a number of people to start working out.
I’m willing to put in the time and hardwork that beginning a gym for women will require. I want us to have a space where we can kickbox, weightlift, learn martial arts, zumba and do yoga with zero discomfort, and the loving encouragement of our trainers and sisters.
After just two months of lifting, I feel stronger, more confident and I look very sexy, you guuuys nice.
Walahi even my walk has changed.
I want, no, need all the women around me to feel this way too.
Mildred Apenyo is a writer with a gyming problem. In addition to contributing to a number of Ugandan publications, she runs a women’s strength and fitness initiative called Fitclique256. She’s reasonably Googleable.