Tensions are high in Uganda since police arrested a leading female opposition member, Zaina Fatuma, after stripping her naked in public at a rally for presidential candidate Kizza Besigye. This is not the first time police have been caught on tape assaulting women at opposition rallies.
Ugandan social media has erupted in outrage after raw footage of the arrest of top FDC member, Zaina Fatuma, was made public. In the video, Fatuma, who is a member of the FDC's National Executive Committee, can be seen having her clothes pulled off by police officers as she is dragged down the side of the road.
Fatuma says that she has been traumatized as a result.
“Even right now I'm still confused, I can't believe," she said. I'm an African woman. You know when someone undresses you in public it's really embarrassing. It's totally embarrassing. It's like the whole world has seen my nakedness. I feel ashamed of myself. Even moving on streets. I don't feel like moving. I have kids. And my baby she asked me, 'Mommy what is this,' and there's no way I can explain to my baby the things which are happening.”
Police contend that Fatuma was undressing herself, saying that using her naked body to protest is a culturally unacceptable tool to shock the public. They say this is evidenced by Fatuma's actions at the end of the video, when an officer tries to give her a shirt and Fatuma stands up and bares herself to the crowd. Fatuma says it was a final act of defiance.
“By the time I reached the police pick up, I was completely naked. They got my top, they told me cover it up," she said. "I said now I'm tired, I don't want. You wanted to see, let everyone see... and after that they said please cover yourself. I said no, that's what you wanted, let it be.”
The situation conjures up an incident from 2012, when Ingrid Turinawe, another FDC activist, had her breast repeatedly groped by a police officer on Ugandan TV. Local activist Jacqueline Alesi wonders if the government is trying to scare women out of political participation,
“I'm actually even seeing that very soon some of these rallies will be only for men," she said. "I don't know whether that is what they are intending, to make sure woman's voices are not heard, but as a woman, traditionally, a creature called a woman is supposed to be respected.”
Fatuma says although the incident has been difficult, she still plans to support Kizza Besigye on his upcoming trip to Eastern Uganda. She also says she is planning to sue the police officers involved, as well as the Inspector General of Police.