What exactly is the women’s crime? Democracy? Autonomy?

Ingrid Turinawe
In Kampala yesterday, Ingrid Turinawe and eleven other women activists were placed under `preventive arrest.’ Preventive arrest means the person arrested hasn’t actually done anything wrong … but might. What was the imminent danger posed by Turinawe and her sisters? Some would say a petition, others might say illegally approaching Parliament, and still others would say, democracy. Yet again, Ingrid Turinawe has been arrested for wanting to take that long walk to democracy.

The story, in a nutshell, is this. A hundred or so Forum for Democratic Change women activists gathered at the FDC headquarters. They wanted to write and present a petition to Parliament protesting new, higher taxes on water and kerosene. Water and kerosene are women’s issues, in Uganda as everywhere else in the world. That’s it. That’s the whole present and imminent danger. A women’s petition to Parliament. The police heard of the meeting, surrounded the building, forced their way, selected and arrested 12 of the women, including Ingrid Turinawe, head of the FDC Women’s League, and Anna Adeke Ebaju, Makerere University Guild President.

As of this morning, five of the women are still being held.

What exactly is the women’s crime that is being prevented? Democracy? Autonomy?

The same question is being asked in Harare, where, on the cusp of today’s elections, dozens of women were rounded up and charged with prostitution. The women’s initial `crime’ was ostensibly `loitering’, which simply means being a woman on the street. This time, the manly cleansing of the public spaces was dubbed “Operation Zvanyanya.” Operation It’s Too Much.

It’s too much … what?

Zimbabwean feminist activist Judith Chiyangwa went to the places where the women had been arrested and she found loads of men, hanging out on the streets, selling, chatting, being. They weren’t arrested.

Too much … what? Too many women in one room in Kampala? Too many individual women on the streets in Harare? Too many women being women, demanding and creating oppositional, autonomous, independent, and even democratic women’s spaces?

(Photo Credit: Pearl Posts)