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‘Porn team starts arrests this week’

Dr Annette Kezaabu

On August 28, 2017, Kampala International University’s deputy vice chancellor (academic affairs) Dr ANNETTE KEZAABU was appointed chairperson of the Pornography Control Committee (PCC).

In this interview, she tells Yudaya Nangonzi about what the committee has done so far, pending arrests of offenders, among others.

What has it been like steering the committee?

I am very motivated and so are the members. I feel great that I am steering something that I am passionate about. As a mother, I want to protect my children and others’. About 78 per cent of youths in Uganda have gadgets and whatever they see and hear shapes their life. We need to start now and save money to rehabilitate them in future.

This committee is underpinned by the Anti-Pornography Act, 2014. Around 2004, many songs that were coming out sounded vulgar as well as a lot of pornographic content coming into the country. So, parliament set up a 12-member committee to research about pornography.

They moved all over the country and registered many pornographic findings which were put on the floor of parliament in 2005. Their recommendations included setting up a committee. Actually, they wanted to set up a whole commission like UCC to look into pornography.

What is the PCC’s mandate? The public seems unconvinced…

That is the Ugandan public and, sometimes, I find it confused. When they see something outrageous, they call, informing you that people are releasing nude pictures to the extent that you can see their uterus. This means that the public recognises that the committee is supposed to do something.

Our committee comprises representatives of the media, medical associations, lawyers, publishing houses, institutions of higher learning, cultural institutions, women, religious organisations and representatives of arts and culture.

Our contract is five years and a part-time job under the Office of the President’s directorate of Ethics and Integrity. Our functions are basically two. First, we are supposed to take necessary measures to ensure that we detect and prohibit pornography. We have been doing a lot of sensitisation because you cannot arrest someone before educating them.

In every region, we looked out for video shops. In Mbarara, they told me one goes for Shs 5,000 yet ordinary movies are sold at Shs 1,500. When you tell people that they can be arrested, they say there’s no law to hold them accountable; but serious action starts this week.

Why didn’t you arrest proprietors of these shops?

I am a scholar who believes first in situation analysis. We now know all areas in the country that are highly pornographic, the video halls, cinemas. Some members also thought we should arrest people immediately but I objected because it would make others trade these things undercover.

This brings me to our other function of collecting and destroying pornographic content which we haven’t done yet. We also have to ensure that perpetrators are arrested and prosecuted as well as promote rehabilitation of victims. 

The PCC has to operate a secretariat of between 30 to 40 staff and allocated Shs 2bn annually. How is that money spent?

We are supposed to have that number but that is not the case which remains a challenge. Even with our approved nine members, only four are operational.

With the money, we draw plans and forward them to the permanent secretary who approves our activities. This financial year, it is going to be extremely difficult because the ministry of Finance has only allocated us Shs 600 million.

By the way, according to the Access to Information Act, I am not allowed to even talk about money because we don’t see and touch it.

Ethics and integrity minister, Simon Lokodo, said Shs 2 billion has to be your annual allocation…

That was hullabaloo… If we had been given that as promised, a lot of things would be in place by now. We spent about Shs 400 million to Shs 500 million and the rest was used to set up the committee offices, pay salaries, etc. If you want to know our spending, please get to the PS.

How big is the problem?

The problem is bigger than you can imagine. In schools, many students confessed that their studies are affected by pornography. Those in boarding schools use part of their pocket money to buy pornographic content and watch it secretly.

There’s a boy who said he got addicted while in senior two; bought prostitutes and masturbated until his body started shaking abnormally. He told us that one time they were in an examination but he couldn’t complete papers without running to masturbate in the latrine.

Pornography is compulsive and can be comparable to morphine. For young people, it is a big problem and shameful – that’s why many people suffer silently.

A woman also confessed that she lured her 16-year-old biological son into sex because she was a stay-home mother who watched a lot of pornography. This has since remained a top secret between the two because they had sex several times.

I look at the committee as a preventative measure for a bigger problem that can come up in the future.

A report is being compiled from different districts which we will avail to the public. However, the early findings indicate the problem is bigger with school and university-going students.

At my daughter’s international school, she told me her friends keep asking whether I am able to monitor what they do with their phones and tablets. This clearly shows that children are already exposed to pornographic content. Some children are engaged in soft pornography in form of novels in libraries.

The females prefer novels while males watch movies. In the process, they go into hardcore pornography to experiment. Some school head teachers pledged to withdraw these novels from their libraries.

Initial findings indicate that there are a lot of broken marriages among people married between 2006 and to-date due to pornography. Also, it was surprising that we found more females were into pornography than males. I honestly found this disgusting, especially in urban areas where women are educated and have gadgets.

We expect the final report by August or September.

How do you monitor/ intercept downloading and sharing of pornography?

We get a lot of this information from whistleblowers. We later download the pictures and write a statement for the police to arrest the people involved.

As a country, we need to stop these things. Of course, technology is responsible for all this but I also don’t know what is happening to people. Gone are the days when we had aunties who performed their duties diligently.

Today, we have self-styled Ssengas producing their own pornography and selling CDs in town. They organise pornographic shows but the time is now to go after them.

Also, there’s a girl who confessed that there’s a line of women who wait to sleep with a pastor here in Kampala for miracles. When it was her turn, he started reaching for her breasts and she made an alarm. We are soon exposing this pastor.

Can we correlate pornography to poverty since people are minting money out of it?

I don’t know because when you’re driving in the evening, young boys stop you in traffic requesting to sell sexual content. One time, I followed a gentleman who took me to a place in Nateete where pornography is sold. To my surprise, it is just near a police station. The society is just not on the right track.

And, it is rather annoying when you arrest people and they are released the next day. This has not happened to us, but we have fears that we may arrest and a directive comes from somewhere for the culprit to be released. We hope no one interferes with our activities.

Last year, the committee was asked to acquire software for detection and suppression of pornography…

You heard about the pornography machine…! We have not yet bought it but we are looking at other options in our second year which starts in September. We now heavily rely on UCC equipment because it regulates Internet Service Providers (ISP) and is able to detect who first leaked the pornographic video or photos.

UCC keeps all this content from social media, televisions and radios for 30 days and once they detect anything pornographic, they alert us. This collaboration with UCC started about two weeks ago.

Some committee members have also identified software which can disable porn. For instance, if you are from another country and possess pornography, once you come to Uganda, it cannot download or open. Already, UK and UAE are doing this. Even if one downloads content and keeps it on a flash disk, there’s software that can stop that.

This will also involve blocking pornographic video calls.

How will you handle Virtual Private Network (VPN) users who bypass restrictions by ISPs?

I know when we squeeze one side, people will run to VPN. For now, not all young people know how to go about it and those who will go there are just hardcore porn addicts.

We are going to attend a VPN conference in the USA soon on how to block those who can bypass ISPs. I don’t know yet how that will work but let us first work on the blatant exposure of private parts, blue movies on streets and internet.

Has the committee prosecuted any perpetrators?

No. But this week we shall be arresting six people with whom sufficient evidence has been gathered to prosecute. These are; Judith Heard, Lillian Rukundo, a one Shamim, Jack Pemba and the woman who appears in the nude video [Facebook names: Honey Suleman], and a police constable in Jinja, Esther Akol.

We all know that people have sex and it has its sanctity. But now, look at Judith Heard! A mother of twins who puts her private parts in the open and someone takes pictures.

For Rukundo, the person who posted her nude video and pictures attached her national ID with a year of birth as 1995. At such a tender age, why would such a beautiful girl allow herself into that?

We have had several meetings with the police and assigned files to different people to have these people arrested. Judith and Pemba are not in the country but we shall arrest them.

Recently, Pemba sent us his lawyer to plead with us that when he comes, we do not embarrass him by arresting him at the airport. The lawyer said he wants to come and explain that he is not the one in the video. We told the lawyer to go back and let the law take its course.

If they are victims, they have to defend themselves. For people like musician Desire Luzinda, we are trying to look for evidence to pin her.

Is it unlawful to download pornographic content and consume it from home without sharing with others?

Yes. Downloading alone is unlawful but people don’t know. By the way, it is okay in the comfort of your bedroom to take nude pictures but what happens when you separate and they are leaked? Both of you become liable but if you come out as a victim, we might tend to use you as a witness.

Your team is supposed to promote rehabilitation of individuals affected by pornography…

We have people who have approached us seeking support but the centre is still being set up at the directorate of ethics. All cases are currently referred to Butabika hospital’s rehabilitation wing, peer educators forum at Makerere and another rehab centre located along Entebbe road.

The victims receive free counseling and psychotherapy sessions as we meet the costs involved. For now, the victims, mainly men below 40 years, are still few.

What is your message to Ugandans?

All Ugandans should know that pornography is a silent poison killing us slowly. I know 80 per cent is manufactured abroad and if we can desist from that, we will have a secure Uganda. The Church and [Ummah] should fight this vice. For youths, if you want to be something, stay away from pornography.

nangonzi@observer.ug

Comments

0 #11 Gucci Visensio 2018-06-07 10:49
I think it's no longer 80 % porn from abroad. Ugandan porn is now common.

Begin with schools and higher institutions of learning and maybe it will reduce. But why are gonna arrest J Heard? Is she the one who leaked it?
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0 #12 Ed Kizito 2018-06-07 11:39
Quoting Rwabukuru:
Ed Kizito,

When did Dr. Kezaabu become a Rwandese?

what is the basis of your allegation? should i say you are misinformed? or malicious or just careless? Do you have evidence to support your assertion?

if you are to attract respect, always do research before you utter out things you clearly do not understand well.

Thank you.


Why don't you go and ask her if you feel offended?

Just go to K.I.U and ask her before jumping around and when she denies, get back to me. Thank you
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0 #13 Wazza 2018-06-07 12:33
Quoting gatashimana:
As a nation we keep creating new projects instead of fixing the failed projects like wealth creation.

We always look for new opportunities to place jobless cadres in so they too can steal some money.

Where are most of our woes as a country coming from. Is it porn, systemic corruption, nepotism, lack of rule of law, tribalism?

We simply do not prioritize and yet we know what brings us down as a nation. Give people things to do and they won't have time for sports betting or porn.


I agree with you. Porn is not the most pressing need
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