Tuesday, November 4, 2008


We should end injustices against women
Daily Monitor last week ran a depressing story about a 19-year-old girl Ms Fatuma Nansamba, who was refused to write her A’ level examinations at Kibibi Secondary School in Mpigi District merely because she gave birth during school term.

And what a tragedy! For starters, at the age of 19, Ms Nansamba is considered under the provisions of our constitution to be an adult – meaning that she can legally consent to have sex, marry and even give birth. There is nothing illegal there.

However, what is unconstitutional and therefore illegal, is the school authority’s decision to deny Ms Nansamba her constitutional right to pursue education. Her case is also part of a wider problem - the wide spread inequitable gender relations in this country that largely and unconstitutionally confine women and the girl-child to a second class citizen status.

The concept of gender refers to the distinctive qualities of women and men that are culturally, socially and economically determined. And because of the patriarchal nature of our society, where women have for long been treated as subservient members of the family, the gender imbalance and the inequalities that come with it, is something that can easily pass for being normal.

This perhaps, explain why a boy(s) responsible for the pregnancy of a young girl(s) can be allowed to sit for their exams while the girl(s) who suffer labour for nine months are not accorded the same opportunity.

And all this happening at a time when it’s common knowledge that women’s rights are protected by our constitution in the Bill of Rights (Chapter four) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted 60 years.

In fact, The Universal Declaration in Article 1 provides that: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

But the provisions of the Universal Declaration on Human rights and several other international and regional legal instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of discrimination against Women have not helped much to ensure the full enjoyment of equal rights by women in this country.

Women are still considered to be labourers in the home and yet they can’t lay any claim to property in your typical rural family home. The biting poverty cannot help matters either because when parents have to make the tough decisions on which child to send to school – such decisions are always in favour of the male gender. The abilities of the girl-child are never considered.

Even those (girls) who make it to school against all odds like Ms Nansamba are still discriminated against.
So, why do women continue to be discriminated against? The discrimination against women can be traced to politics, economics, social relations and even the law, which predominantly remain the preserve of men.

And as long as these old prejudices remain entrenched in our minds, women emancipation shall remain a big joke and to a great extent, a myth! But one thing is clear though - the injustices that are continually meted out against women and the girl-child must be brought to an end.

Women should not be treated as second class citizens or worse still as men’s property. Women who are our mothers should be treated with dignity and allowed the full attainment of their constitutional rights which include but are not limited to, the right to good health care and education. Women should at all times enjoy the same, equal opportunities as men.

Mr Sserwanga is a journalist and advocate

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