Lately, Uganda has been on the radar for many reasons, some of which are not so pleasing. From refuted general elections to repeated arrests of activists and opposition leaders, the country has been on the news for quite a while now. However, one thing that has stunned the world about Uganda is the recent cases of women stripping in protest.
In a span of one year, there has been more than three incidents of Ugandan women stripping in protest. Earlier this week, a renowned and controversial Ugandan scholar, Dr. Stella Nyanzi, stirred the social media after she posted on her Facebook page a video of her, nude, protesting the locking of her office by the executive director at Makerere University, Prof. Mahmood Mamdani.
Before the stripping incident, Dr. Nyanzi had been protesting on social medial over her closed office at Makerere University in what she termed as “oppression”. She claimed the office was closed after she refused to participate in a PhD program at the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR). One of her Facebook posts read:
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Mhamood Mamdani evicted me from the office assigned to me for research work at Makerere Institute of Social Research because I do not teach on his PhD program. However, he assigned an entire office block to Prof ABK Kasozi- a retired senior citizen who is neither an employee of Makerere University, nor a teacher of any course on the PhD program. Prof Kasozi was the Executive Director of Uganda National Council of Higher Education.”
On Monday, 18th April, Dr. Nyanzi went to Prof. Mahmood’s office where she stripped to the nude, depositing all her clothes on the floor. In the video, Nyanzi can be heard howling insults and demanding for her office to be reopened.
A few hours after the video went viral; Dr. Nyanzi was given back her office. Stella Nyanzi is a medical anthropologist with a PhD from University of London.
Previous Stripping Incidents
In May 2015, pictures of several naked Ugandan women surfaced online where they were protesting against alleged grabbing of land by Chinese investors. In the photos, at least four women are seen lying on a dusty road completely naked.
A month before that, a group of elderly women in Apea Village in Uganda, stripped naked in front of the Minister of Lands, Daudi Migereko, and the Minister of Internal Affairs, Aronda Nyakairima, in protest over a new land demarcation exercise.
NTV Uganda also reported:
About 50 Ugandan women stripped naked protesting against the grabbing of another piece of land in Lakang area back in 2013.
This incident followed another stripping incident that happened in 2012 where a group of Ugandan women stripped outside Ingrid Turinawe Police Station’ in protest against alleged sexual assault on a woman by a Ugandan police officer.
While stripping protests are seen in other parts of the world, they seem to be rampant in Uganda. According to a report done by BBC in 2015, Acholi people- a Ugandan tribe- believe that a woman stripping in public is laden with meaning.
“It is more powerful than fighting as it is believed such actions invoke the worst of curses on the woman’s enemy,” the report indicated.
Speaking to The Monitor after the Apea incident, 80-year old Nicholas Opoka-a resident of Gulu Municipality- said that it is a serious thing when a woman exposes her nude or points her breasts at you.
“When you attack a defenseless woman, or plot to grab her property or when her children drive her to the wall, she has no option, she either undresses or uses her breasts to cast a spell on you,” the old man said.