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Assault on Female Opposition Activist Sparks Protests in Uganda

  • Ricci Shryock

Ugandan opposition leader Ingrid Turinawe said she has been arrested and beaten for her work before, but nothing compared to what happened to her last Friday.

“It was the worst terror I have ever experienced in my life, since I started activism,” she said.

The incident was caught on video and later broadcast on national television. The video shows police trying to drag Turinawe from her car as she was on her way to a protest. Then an officer begins to grab and squeeze her breast.

“All of a sudden, without explaining anything, they started pulling me,” she said. “Then one officer was pressing, folding and squeezing my breast. It was so, so painful. I couldn’t even gather the energy to fight back.”

Eventually the police removed Turinawe from her car and placed her in the back of a police van. The video stops there, but Turinawe said her ordeal did not: “As soon as they put me in the van, they were holding my hands and they were concentrating on punching my breasts.”

The video sparked nationwide outrage, especially among women’s groups. On Monday six female opposition activists were briefly detained after they staged a protest while wearing just their bras.

According to local media, police officials initially insisted the officers who arrested Turinawe were women, but the officer in the video appear to men. Later one officer was suspended, pending an investigation.

Turinawe said even if authorities address last Friday’s incident, the larger issues behind Uganda’s women-led protests remain. Demonstrators are calling for sweeping government action to address what they say is widespread corruption, as well as a lack of infrastructure, education and healthcare in the country.

“In Uganda, women have suffered most in this government,” she said. “We have seen our children denied education. We are seeing all this violence subjected to women, and the violence here in Uganda is not only direct, but we are also experiencing indirect violence – a violence whereby our children have been subjected to a life of ignorance, where there is no education.”

According to Turinawe, another women’s group is planning a protest march to the parliament building for Wednesday where they will stage an event with Parliament Speaker Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga.

A report by NTV Uganda shows video of Turinawe's arrest:

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