I was on my way back to the office with a friend when a random man steps right in front of her and says the most outrageous thing. He didn’t stop at that. He couldn’t. He grabbed her hand, took a few steps ahead of her and when she eventually managed to wrestle free from his firm hold, He went ahead to say the most preposterous thing yet in the history of street molestation.
He was lanky, ashy and loud. He wore a button down shirt that lacked most buttons and brown torn jeans that I believe were once blue. He looked like he hadn’t had a shower in weeks and smelled so. He was drunk. That was made clear by his blood shot eyes, the way he staggered about and how he breathed more rubbish into the world.
His friends, a bunch of about 20 men that lurked around making noise and arguing kept sending cheer and chorused encouragement to him. One said “those women look like they could be fun” in Luganda as the rest echoes his words.
A few moments later, this man still couldn’t let us go through, he screamed at her “my friends want to know, of the two you, (gesturing at me), who is more exciting to have oral sex with?” In Luganda. No amount of translation could perfectly capture exactly what it is he said but it is burnt into my memory.
I was at a total loss of words. And for a person who talks as much as I do, this is no simple thing.
Needless to say, I was enraged. We both were. My first instinct was to turn back at him and say something. To let him know That it has never been okay to talk to women like that. To ask him what would prompt a grown man to say something of that magnitude to strangers. To retort with something more vile and horrendous. To let him know I had heard what he’d said and I had something to say too.
No sooner had the first syllable left my mouth than his crowd of friends generated more insults and more rubbish. One said “baby, come tell us” in reference to the earlier question we’d been so graciously asked.We walked on. Annoyed and disgusted.
This was at the Kamwokya taxi stage. This is what happened to two women as they walked back to work after lunch.
This isn’t the first time something of this nature has happened to me, or my friend, or countless women allover this city. Allover the world. And in as much as I’d like for it to be the last, I’m pretty sure it won’t be.
I was embarrassed. Not because my friend and I were referred to as sexual objects as we walked about, but embarrassed for this man. A grown man. Someone’s son. Someone’s husband. Someone’s father. I was saddened that a person could reach maturity and have the ability to hurl obscenities and insults of a very colourful nature to two unsuspecting women. And also have a band of other grown men, sons, fathers and husbands congratulate him upon it. To have them join in this disrespect and harassment with so much joy and pride. Like its something any self respecting man should do.
Millions of Women have been in this situation. Maybe not at the Kamwokya taxi stage, maybe not on the street. Where men feel the need to explicitly inform you of how good they think you’d be in bed, or how big/small your butt is, or how they’d like to have live sex with you, or how you’re their perfect size, or how good you look. They do it for fun. But it is not fun.
Their actions breed consequences. Unfortunately, it is Us who face these consequences. My friend and I had to use this same route to get home. But a little piece of me was afraid as we made our way. That they’d be there. Waiting to shade some more light on their sexual preferences.
A friend once told me she couldn’t go to downtown Kampala or the New and Old taxi parks because of all the men ready to grab at ladies and hurl insults at them.
It is a constant fear that isn’t uncommon among women. Because this sort of thing happens all the time.
How can I stop myself from being harassed whenever l step out of my house?
Who do I talk to to make it stop? Where do I send the letters asking for permission to go home, or go to the market, or go for a jog without being called “baby” and grabbed at like an animal? Because I clearly can not talk to them. There’s always more where that comes from and as much as I trust my ability to preach respect and dignity, I am sure my words would be lost on them. Where do they address this kind of assault? Where can I find assurance that tomorrow when I go for lunch I will not be picked up and torn apart by these men who have chosen this path of life?
This cannot keep happening. But Alas! Its is going to keep happening for as long as these idle big mouths still linger in our city.