‘Am I My Brother’s Keeper?’

This post is written by Susan Nava and was originally posted on Medium. It is republished here with permission from the author.
Ronald Kibuule is only a few years older than I am. We share mutual friends, and I’ve been told that he is a fun guy to be around. That he is a lot like any of my male friends, or even my brothers. Ronald is married, and has children. Everything that I know about him places him in our national demographics as a Ugandan, male, age 29, husband and father.

Oh, and did I mention that he is the current State Minister for Youth and Children Affairs in the Ugandan Cabinet? The youngest Minister in the country.
Another fact that might be of interest here is that 77% of Uganda’s population is below 30 years of age. Could Ronald’s age have been a determining factor in the process of appointing the best candidate to represent the youngest population in the world?

Well, anyone who knows me will tell you this; I love to remind people of the fact that politicians don’t fall out of the sky. That these human beings are the result, reflection and representatives of a society. That they make up the Zeitgeist of our time. Also, that much like us, they have their flaws.
Late last month, Ronald was put on the spot during Uganda’s Parliamentary meetings, to clarify on remarks he’d made; that women who dress “indecently” deserve to be raped. The minister had reportedly said that police should cross-check the backgrounds of rape cases to eliminate those ‘provoked’ by women dressed in miniskirts, bikinis and tight jeans.

As outrageous as his remarks are, I suspect that this statement was not a big surprise to the majority of people in Uganda. The shock factor was mostly that the Minister for Youth & Children affairs had made these remarks in public. You see, this is a nation where a female journalist returned to work after being gang-raped and was met with congratulations for “surviving the men” — ‘Kulika agasajja’, her colleagues said. A place where there are increasing cases of domestic violence,despite the existence of laws to support prosecution of such cases. A place where our most popular news bulletins are based on sensationalism. And a place where, evidently, a politician rarely has to think about the political or moral consequences of what he says and believes.

After the story began circulating online, social & traditional media outlets made the mandatory amount of noise and online uproar led to the Minister of Youth Affairs (finally) joining Twitter to give the world his side of the story.

In Parliament, and on Twitter, Ronald denied that he had made the these remarks but an audio recording (now available on social networks) indicates that he actually did.

While public opinion is divided as to whether we have the right to weigh in on a politician’s personal scandal and/or lobby for his resignation, I have always been of the view that we shouldn’t judge a person if it’s a personal family matter and/or doesn’t affect the politician’s ability to do their job.
Although, since the scandal at hand is neither of the categories above, as taxpayers and citizens, it is definitely our right to know. It is our right to judge. It is our right to question the effectiveness of hypocrisy in government; saying that there is so much of it, so what’s one more opinion, is the worst kind of apathy.
It is our right and responsibility to know who amongst us has been chosen — to represent us, make decisions about our livelihoods and protect our fundamental rights.

Given the chance, I would tell Ronald the same thing that I would tell my biological brother if he were in the middle of this storm;
It is terribly tempting to blame and criticize you right now. But if we do this, you will only learn to “cover your tracks” better next time. We must aim our energies at solving the root of this problem. Our society must stop asking its sisters to avoid rape, and instead teach our brothers not to rape.

Regardless of how you feel about my “indecent” clothing, I truly believe that I am my brother’s keeper.

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