Uganda: Breast-Squeezing Police Officer Suspended But Bra-Bearing Activists Discontent

Activists who stripped to their bras protesting the alleged sexual assault of Ingrid Turnawe are not satisfied. Suspending the police officer who groped the opposition politician is not enough, they say.

By Marlies Pilon, Kampala

Last Friday a helmeted police officer was captured on film arresting Turnawe of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party at an opposition rally just outside Kampala. While trying to extract her from the driver’s seat of a car, the officer could be seen squeezing her breast.

Ugandan Internal Affairs Minister James Baba on Tuesday said that one officer was suspended pending further investigation of the incident.

Following the incident, outraged women activists on Monday marched topless through Kampala’s city center.

“Cannot be tolerated”
Event organizer and demonstration participant Barbra Allimadi says although she is content with the media attention and suspension of the concerned police officer, all of her group’s wishes have yet to be fulfilled.

“We have two demands,” she says. “The first one is that the police officer who sexually assaulted Ingrid Turnawe is fired. He is now suspended and we are waiting for the outcome of the police investigation. Our second demand is that the head of the Uganda police force should resign. Abuse and intimidation cannot be tolerated.”

Gender trouble
According to Minister Baba: “The incident occurred during the arrest of a female who was suspected of committing a number of traffic violations and who failed to comply with the lawful instructions of a police officer”. He added that “it is alleged that this lady suffered an assault as she resisted arrest”.

Although Baba’s statement does not give the police officer’s gender, Allimadi asserts that her fellow activist knows. Happy Nasasira was in the car when the incident happened and could clearly see the police officer was male. “Police and authorities insist it was a female,” says Allimadi. “But we know it was a male.”

Women who ‘walk-to-work’
Since Uganda’s ‘walk-to-work’ protests started one year ago, opposition politicians demonstrating against the government and the high cost of living regularly clash with police. Violence and arrests are common.

On Wednesday the chair of the Uganda Women Parliamentarians Association (UWOPA) presented a statement in parliament to condemn the police brutality against female activists. The speaker of parliament asked that a report on Turnawe’s alleged assault be received before 18 May.

The political body
Asked how she feels about her private body becoming a public and political domain, Allimadi says she is willing to do whatever it takes to gain support for her cause. “This is not something I did because I really wanted to, but because it simply had to be done,” said the 39-year-old activist.

-Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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