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Your mail: MPs should not spoil the good name of sex workers

To call a Ugandan member of parliament a ‘prostitute’ is to describe him or her accurately.

To call a woman or man who sells sex on the streets of Kampala a ‘prostitute’ is to abuse that man or woman. So, if anyone should complain about rabble-rouser Charles Rwomushana describing MPs as prostitutes in an NBS TV talk show, it is not the female MPs, but the sex sellers on the streets.  

The only case the female MPs, who asked the minister for Information to take stern action against Rwomushana and NBS, could have is that Rwomushana was probably unfair to restrict his apt description to female MPs, when it equally applies to the male ones.

It seems Mr Rwomushana called women MPs ‘prostitutes’ in the context of their failure to fight for the rights and welfare of the common woman. Of course, fighting for the rights of your mother, auntie or sister through parliament is the job of all MPs.

Unless Mr Rwomushana was referring to women elected to parliament specifically to represent women, he would have been more accurate by describing all MPs – men and women – as prostitutes. I have a feeling, however, that being gender-inclusive would not have saved Rwomushana the wrath of MPs.  

A ‘prostitute’ is of course a term traditionally used to describe a woman who provides sex in exchange for money. It has the connotation of someone who is somehow morally lacking, someone engaging in a despicable practice.

But we know that tradition is not always right, and it doesn’t particularly treat women well, especially in patriarchal societies. I would, therefore, file the traditional concept of ‘prostitution’ under the same category as the concept of ‘witch’ – traditionally always an old woman – as stuff invented by men to claim moral superiority and perpetuate male domination and all the privileges it entails. 

In other words, ‘prostitute’ is a term I would never use to describe the woman or man who sells sex on the street. The term I prefer, to describe that person, is ‘sex worker’. Some people argue that describing sex for money as ‘sex work’ is glamourizing something harmful to individuals and society.

I still find the term more agreeable as, it seems to me, it simply describes a practice without passing any moral judgment. To call someone who sells sex a ‘sex worker’ is not to say whether their trade is good or bad. To call her or him a ‘prostitute’, on the other hand, is to say that what they are doing is terrible.

A sex worker does not lie about their work. A sex worker does not cheat. A sex worker does not judge. In other words, a sex worker is very honest. I couldn’t imagine anybody more honest. The same could not be said of a Ugandan MP, male or female.

I can’t start to recount all the parliamentary shenanigans that would qualify ‘honourable’ MPs as prostitutes – from that ‘handshake’ of Shs 5 million to lift presidential term limits (I don’t know any sex worker who is that cheap) to dodging paying taxes on allowances to buying themselves cars at the taxpayers’ expense.  

Can we agree not to tarnish the sex workers’ good name by associating them with MPs? 

Kirungi F Fideri,
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@fideri

GMO bill: Are we back to square one?

On March 14, 2017, the leadership of my unit delegated me to present the position of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) on the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill 2012 (hereafter the bill) before the 10th parliament’s committee on Science and Technology (10th PCST).

After reading a copy of the bill word-for-word to rule out the possibility that I could have been served the old 2013 draft, I indeed confirmed that the Bill was the most current. Strangely, most of the concerns that the 9th PCST had reluctantly incorporated in the bill were erased and the current bill is back to what it was by March 12, 2013 when I first presented my ‘minority’ views!

When I raised this concern, the chairperson of the committee, Kafeero Ssekitooleko, explained that as part of procedure, the committee was not bound by the unfinished business of the ninth parliamentary committee on the same.

I am neither an MP nor a politician and may not be aware of procedural matters pertaining how business is transacted in parliament. However, I am concerned that the resources (time and money) that were sunk into improving the bill could just be erased like that simply because of parliament’s procedural matters.

Among some of the agreeable concerns addressed by the 9th PCST were: Since the bill is all about GMOs, the title should be changed to match with its content; Uganda National Council For Science and Technology cannot be the competent authority where it is the beneficiary and promoter of GMOs; GMOs need to be labeled; a strict liability clause is needed; and that the bill should focus more on regulating rather than promoting GMOs.

Now that we are back to square one, are we going to revisit all that had transpired during the 9th PCST including tabling the bill for first reading all through to where the 9th PCST had reached before we forge a way forward?

What if these same issues keep dragging until the end of the term for the 10th PCST; shall we have to revert to the 2013 version come 2021?

Giregon Olupot,
Makerere University.

Govt should get serious on illegal immigrants

I read about non-Ugandans recently arrested by immigration officials for lack of work permits and deported.

Surely, with the immigration laws in place, one wonders why immigrants are left to benefit from free service delivery yet remittances to their countries of origin go untaxed. What hurts me always is that these people own big businesses with huge daily sales most of which are not taxed. 

I once crossed the Uganda-DR Congo border but just as I left the customs office, I was intercepted by some plain clothes Congolese policemen commonly known as suda to verify my documents (detailing the number of days I was to stay in their country).

This made me wonder why in Uganda immigrants enter freely, sometimes without the knowledge of the local council leadership. Most old towns nowadays harbor a lot of illegal immigrants operating petty businesses. I wonder if the immigration officers really take time to visit these outlets to verify these immigrants.

If not, then this ongoing operation must be rolled out to all these towns, especially those at porous border points to deal with the issue of work permits and illegal entry; otherwise, government could be losing revenue.

Desmond Kenyi,
Koboko.

Directive on illegal fishing commendable

I would like to commend President Museveni for his directive on illegal fishing. The president directed that the Fisheries Act be amended to provide for a seven-year mandatory jail term for anyone involved in illegal fishing activities, as part of the measures to curb the vice.

This ban follows the enormous loss to the country, whereby out of the 21 fish factories that were operational 10 years ago, only eight are still functioning.

On top of this, the president has also put a ban on the importation of fishing gear, arguing that only fishing nets manufactured in Uganda should be used.

I believe this is a great move and should be welcomed by everyone because lately, there has been a lot of illegal fishing in the country. Also stopping the importation of fishing nets is good for local manufacturers.
 
Hope Abonit,
Kampala.

Stop theft at Arua prison

I used to think that corruption was a vice only striking institutions managed by civilians, but I learnt that I was wrong when I escorted a friend to visit a relative serving a jail sentence at Arua prison.

We arrived at the facility at 10am, where we were subjected to a thorough check, and ordered to leave everything we had with the receptionist. After surrendering the required items to the officers on duty, we were taken to the inmate, and we chatted for about 10 minutes.

However, when we came back to pick our items, we were shocked to find that my colleague’s smartphone was missing. The poor man had secured this phone two weeks earlier at an astronomical price. Our attempts to seek an explanation fell on deaf ears.

We were forcefully ordered to leave the premises, and asked to return the following day; to date, the phone is still missing.

Cases of visitors’ items missing at this facility aren’t new. Against this background, the intriguing questions one would likely pose are: how could the administration of the facility order visitors to leave their belongings at the reception if it doesn’t have enough manpower to take care of them?

For such ugly scenarios, who should be held accountable? I hope the the concerned authorities rein in the errant officers. 

Muzamil Alamiga,
Arua.

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