Will the world ever stop blaming women?

Vanessa Calys-Tagoe October 20, 2022
A by-law, passed in early 2022, bans women in northern Uganda from sitting in the truck's front cabins. Image via BBC

“It’s hard not to feel humourless, as a woman and a feminist, to recognize misogyny in so many forms, some great and some small, and know you’re not imagining things.”

― Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist

It’s the 21st century, in the big year of 2022 and once again, a woman is at the mercy of a man because of a crime she did not commit. A whole bye-law is passed just to ensure that the man, who is the culprit, is not held responsible.

Women are subjected to all manner of cynicism and disrespect from men on a spectrum of issues ranging from education, employment, religion, marriage and whatever else the patriarchy feels women must be at the bottom end of, but this by-law passed by Uganda is the most surprising one — yet.

A trader’s organization in northern Uganda passed a bye-law in the early months of 2022 prohibiting women from sitting up front in trucks after determining that ladies in the front seat are a distraction for drivers and could cause an accident. This development occurred in Lira, a town in northern Uganda as a result of an accident that claimed the lives of nine persons. Locals said the driver was with his girlfriend.

The police concluded from investigations that the accident was caused by speeding and recklessness, but the right of women to sit anywhere they please in a vehicle has been taken away by the driver union who believe that women in front seats are a distraction and should they continue to sit in front more accidents would happen.

While patriarchy is a dominant feature in Africa, this bye-law that the Ugandan central government is not in favor of should raise a lot of eyebrows. The focus of a driver when he is behind a wheel is not determined by the passenger in the front seat. It’s the driver’s prerogative. Again, anyone in a front seat could be a distraction.

Whether it is a man speaking loudly on a phone or a woman doing the same, or just about anyone chatting up the driver when he is supposed to be concentrating on the drive ahead and getting his passengers and himself into safety. Shifting blame to a woman for supposedly distracting a driver because she is clothed in a short skirt and has supposedly exposed her thighs is just a man refusing to take responsibility for something he had done.

The blame-shifting game continues to widen the gap that gender advocates are continuously fighting to close. When a man sexually assaults a woman, the woman is blamed. When a man beats his wife, it is the woman’s fault. When a married couple can’t conceive it’s the woman’s fault; a man driving recklessly is a woman’s fault? Is Africa moving forward or back in this regard?

Patrick Opio Obote, chairman of Lira’s mobile market vendors group, told AFP, “We discovered other than high speed and indiscipline of truck drivers, some women sit in the front cabin while wearing short dresses, some take the drivers to bars and drink alcohol and the drivers end up causing accidents. Some of them wear short dresses which expose their thighs and distract drivers, and the drivers end up causing accidents and people on board die.”

The whole statement proves that the drivers are unwilling to take responsibility and their leaders are with them on it and so they shift the blame to women who are just passengers at that time, for a short time.

Not to digress, but when a man walks out on a woman and leaves her with kids it is supposedly her fault because she cannot “keep a man”. We are not done dealing with that situation and today, when a woman sits in a truck, she is liable for the driver’s inability to stay focused and drive and get everyone in the vehicle to safety.

One cannot be surprised anymore. No one knows when it will end, but the question remains: will the world ever stop blaming women? Because it doesn’t look like it will and even if the women were a distraction, “don’t blame the distraction, improve your focus.” Suffice it to say, the union could have organized a workshop for the drivers to improve their focus instead of discriminating against women, but as Erica Jong says, “blaming women is always in fashion.”

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