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Ugandans Outraged Over MP Saying Wife Beating is OK

FILE - Ugandan lawmakers gather in the parliament in Kampala, Sept. 21, 2017. Onesmus Twinamatsiko, a member of national parliament, argued in favor of wife beating, on a national TV outlet on March 8.

The issue of domestic violence has come to the fore in Uganda after a member of parliament argued in favor of wife beating.

In the words of the Ugandan legislator, a man who disciplines his wife can touch, tackle and beat her to streamline her.

Onesmus Twinamatsiko, a member of national parliament, made the comments to a national TV outlet on March 8. Outraged, the public demanded an apology. This is what they got on the floor of parliament Wednesday.

"Kindly accept my sincere and unreserved apologies honorable members…(applause) and the general public and more particularly the women. This apology is unconditional. The beating I meant wasn't the normal beating, but another type…(applause)," he said.

In other media interviews this week, Twinamatsiko reportedly said certain forms of abuse, like slapping, are ok.

Female legislator Adeke Anne Ebaju is among the MP's demanding disciplinary action against her colleague.

"There was no remorse in his statement. He still made mention of a certain beating in quotes which he did not even explain," she said. "And whatever explanation he attaches to it, I think it still belittles women. Did you see how all the male colleagues were thumping when he spoke about a certain beating?"

VOA was not able to obtain recent government statistics on spousal abuse. However, a 2011 demographic and health survey is telling. It found that about three out of five in Uganda believe that wife beating is justified. This is despite laws such as the constitution and the Domestic Violence Act which outlaw such abuse.

FILE - Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni talks to reporters in Rushere, Kiruhura district, west of Kampala, Feb. 18, 2011.
FILE - Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni talks to reporters in Rushere, Kiruhura district, west of Kampala, Feb. 18, 2011.

On International Women's Day, March 8, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni had highlighted the issue and passed a stern warning.

"Men who are cowards are the ones who beat women. Why do you beat women, why don't you, if you want to fight, why don't you look for fellow men and you fight? Why do you beat somebody who is weak?," said the president.

The reasons women cited for beatings according to the 2011 survey included going out without permission, neglecting the children, arguing back, refusing to have sex, or burning the food.

VOA spoke to Tina Musuya, the executive director of Center for Domestic Violence Prevention in Kampala.

"All those who still think that a man must be the head of a household, think they are privileged to discipline them. So, many of them think that when someone does that, it's an expression of love. And when the victims come out to seek for support, they are blamed and told to, you know, there is no good man out there, just hang in there, pray about it, he will one day change," she said.

Local activists view Twinamatsiko's comments as a setback. They say the narrative needs to change on domestic violence in Uganda, with perpetrators being held accountable, not excused.