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Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 18:28 GMT
Uganda tackles wife-beating taboo
The Karamojong of north-eastern Uganda
The Karamojong regard wife beating as a normal
Africa's highest-ranking female politician has spoken out about the beatings which she said were responsible for her separation from her husband.

Why should I continue staying with a man who beats me?

Specioza Kazibwe
Ugandan vice president
Uganda's Vice-President, Specioza Kazibwe, said that she had been forced to throw her engineer husband out of their house - which she had built - when she decided enough was enough.

Her comments have caused a stir in a country where the subject is largely taboo.

"Why should I continue staying with a man who beats me?" she was quoted by the New Vision newspaper as telling women legislators.

"I told him - how can you beat a vice president?"

Husband's challenge

Wife-beating is not uncommon in Uganda where culture dictates that a man overrules a woman in every decision in a home.

Ugandan Vice President Specioza Kazibwe
Specioza Kazibwe: Breaking the tradition (Picture courtesy of New Vision)
For his part Mrs Kazibwe's estranged husband, Charles Kazibwe, told New Vision that in the 10 years of their married life, he had only slapped her twice.

Mr Kazibwe has challenged his wife "to produce evidence of any harm inflicted".

"She had come home late at three in the morning and could not give a satisfactory reason," he said.

"She had teamed up with some women politicians of whom I did not approve, and they went out a lot," he explained.


In the streets of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, the reaction to Mrs Kazimbwe's revelations has been varied.

Many think that it was improper for the vice president to have aired her dirty laundry in public.

Women are told to respect their husbands even if they are abused or beaten up

North Ugandan woman
One man said that Mrs Kazibwe's response to her husband's beating is misleading other women.

"She has all the assets - money and a house that can maintain her until she dies. But these poor women if they chuck out their husbands, where will they go?" he asked.

He added that wife beating is very common and "she was just given a slap".

Breaking taboos

Mrs Kazibwe should have kept it in the family, said one woman, Diana.

"She is the vice-president of Uganda. People will start asking whether such a thing can really happen in such a person's home".

"I come from north of the country, where women are told to respect their husbands even if they are abused or beaten up," Diana added.

"I am happy with the tradition because men are more superior to us and I think, without men, we would not be what we are now."

Now that the vice-president whom they respect has spoken out about wife beating in public, more women will discuss the issue openly

But Justine praised the vice-president for her courage in coming out in the open and talking about domestic violence which many women experience in their marriages.

"I think she did the right thing - to come out with it in public on behalf of other women. Maybe something will come out with it."

Another woman, Jennifer said that men, have for a long time been mistreating women who always keep quiet.

"But now that the vice-president whom they respect has spoken out about wife beating in public, more women will discuss the issue openly."

But others feel that Mrs Kazibwe's revelation could have an adverse reaction and "encourage more husbands to be more violent".

"Well they would say, if the vice-president can be beaten up - who are you not to respect that?" commented Phillip from Kampala.

See also:

15 Mar 02 | Africa
Sudan lets Uganda go after rebels
12 May 01 | Africa
Uganda 'ready' for Sudan ties
06 Jan 00 | Africa
Uganda's fight for its children
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Uganda
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