Saturday, June 21, 2008

Uganda: Sodomy in Boarding Schools

It would be unfair if I insisted on putting only the 'good articles' about gay life in Uganda on this blog, wouldnt it? So, I have to put this one.

And qualify with this statement. I went to one of these boarding schools. Yeah. And was never 'forced'. But I am biasing you already. Bad reading...

Uganda: Sodomy in Boarding Schools

The Monitor (Kampala)

The Monitor (Kampala)

21 June 2008

Posted to the web 20 June 2008

Rodney Muhumuza & Richard Wanambwa

In accounts that indict school administrators and illustrate the darker side of life in boarding schools, some parents have spoken out to reveal the depth of sexual abuse in single-sex schools.

At least three parents have told Saturday Monitor that they were forced to move their children to other schools after learning of the risks at the schools they went to.

And another parent, who has suggested that she may soon have to find a new school for her child, has already complained to the Ministry of Education that her teenage son may have been sodomised at the prestigious school he attends.

The risks involved, according to the accounts, range from sodomy to indulgence in other forms of crass sexual behaviour.

Their courageous testimonies spoke of students being forced to indulge in unnatural sexual practices at schools where administrators do not encourage students to report cases of sexual abuse.

The parents we spoke to, even though they did so on condition of anonymity because they did not want to bring stigma to themselves or their children, admitted that even transferring their children to new schools provided no immediate guarantees that they were now in safe hands.

One parent transferred her son from Busoga College Mwiri to Kisubi High School; another moved her son from Kiira College Butiki to Kyambogo College School; and the third, if it were not for concerns over hefty fees elsewhere, wanted to move her daughter from Wanyange Girls' School.

Another parent told Saturday Monitor that her "brilliant daughter" has vowed not to return for her A'levels at one of the leading girls' schools in Kampala due to the growing problem of lesbianism at the school.

Mr Aggrey Kibenge, the Ministry of Education publicist, said that one case had been brought to their attention.

A woman, responding to complaints from her child who attends St Mary's College Kisubi (Smack), complained to the ministry that her son is sleep-deprived at school because he has to worry about the possibility of being sodomised at night.

The boy, the woman alleged in a separate email to the Saturday Monitor, may have already been sexually abused.

Mr Kibenge confirmed that the ministry was investigating alleged homosexual behaviour at Smack, but he also said that it may be difficult to establish the truth because of the absence of willing complainants.

"They investigated [the case] and said there was no evidence. The headmaster [of Smack] said it cannot be possible that sodomy happens at the school," Mr Kibenge said on Thursday.

"It's a matter that one needs to follow through and get testimonies. But the investigators have to fight with the administrators."

Mr Fagil Mandy, an education consultant who once worked as the Ministry of Education's top inspector of schools, said that homosexual behaviour, while it has long been reported in some Ugandan schools, is now driven by a global culture that is increasingly less hostile towards homosexuals.

"We now have lobbyists who are campaigning and winning over people," Mr Mandy said on Thursday. "First of all it is curiosity [among students], and then there is the element of money [provided by foreigners who wish to popularise gay culture in Uganda]."

Homosexuality is a crime in Uganda, and the Penal Code Act prescribes life imprisonment for a convict. But while there have been some arrests of openly gay people, nobody has ever been successfully prosecuted.

And because most Ugandan homosexuals are decidedly secretive, there are no reliable estimates of their numbers in a country where, like in most of Africa, all cultural orientations condemn gay behaviour. "The people don't report the cases.

If there is no complainant, then who will testify against the accused?" asked Ms Judith Nabakoooba, the police publicist. In recent times, homosexuals and their sympathisers have been campaigning for public acceptance; three of them were yesterday in court to face tresspass charges resulting from a public event called by the pressure group Sexual Minorities Uganda.

According to the accounts of the parents who spoke to us, gay life is thriving in single-sex boarding schools because most administrators do not have the guts to punish the offenders.

What has happened is that while administrators may have every reason to suspect some students of engaging in inappropriate sexual behaviour, they are unlikely to take the firm step to punish or dismiss them.

"The feeling I was given was that the administrators did not encourage reports of that nature," Mr Kibenge said of the investigation into sodomy at Smack. "It's something we need to keep a watchful eye on."

The question of whether sodomy happens at Smack has been the subject of an online debate started by old boys and parents who say they are concerned about the safety of the new generation of students at the prominent school, founded by Catholic missionaries.

In an email to one of the old boys, a copy of which we have seen, Mr Edward Bukenya, the Smack headmaster, was adamant that his school was beyond suspicion.

"I am in receipt of your email against our school Smack. First of all, I thank you for your concern for your alma mater, and as an old boy you are enjoined to always promote the good image of Smack," Mr Bukenya said in the April 26 email to Mr Timothy Gaburungi. "It's quite unfortunate that the enemies of the school tend to discredit the school in such a negative image.

Smack, being always on the top of other schools in the country, especially in academic performance, attracts a lot of envy and jealousy from some people..."

Mr Bukenya was reluctant to speak to Saturday Monitor on alleged sodomy in his school. The authorities at Butiki and Mwiri said the allegations were unfair. It was not possible to reach the Wanyange headmistress for a comment.

Mr James Kubeketerya, the Bunya East MP who is the outgoing chairman of Parliament's Social Services Committee, said he was aware that poor students attending different schools were being lured with money to promote gay culture at single-sex schools.

Without providing details, Mr Kubeketerya, a former teacher at Mwiri, said older students are promised financial rewards for "luring the small ones" into homosexuality.

"The important thing is [to say] that sodomy goes on in some schools," Mr Kubeketerya said. "The administrators should openly speak out."

According to the parents who spoke to us, their children asked to be taken to new schools. But they may have been sexually abused by the time they asked for change, the parents said.

"He told me that it was an attempt, three attempts actually, to sodomise him," said the mother of the boy who left Mwiri for Kyambogo. "He changed behaviour and I got concerned. He told me that he did not want to go back to that school."

Mr Martin Sempa, a Kampala pastor who is interested in youth affairs, said in an interview on Thursday that he had interacted with at least 20 students who were sodomised at the schools they attended.

"I think that this is the biggest tragedy in our education system. I swear that will never take my child to a boarding school," Mr Sempa said, naming at least three people known to him who have witnessed sodomy "from close quarters". One of the witnesses he named, a former Smack student who left the school in 2004, said homosexuality there was engendered by "the big boys" in the school's rugby team.

"I was not a victim, but I know that sodomy used to happen during night time, when we were watching movies," he said, requesting anonymity because he did not want to bring attention to himself. "It was done by the big boys in the rugby team, the big, big guys. They are the ones who were sodomising the young ones."

The accounts of two other witnesses (whose identities we have withheld in order to respect of their privacy), even though they attended different schools, were tragically similar to the story told by the Smack old boy. They all spoke of older students leading their younger counterparts in relationships that started innocently, sometimes with just a simple request to "lay my bed today".

In some cases, according to the accounts, sodomy was perpetrated by prefects and other seemingly responsible students, making it even more difficult for the victims to consider speaking out against their tormentors.

"You saw kids walking in all sorts of ways. They were in pain--it was very, very bad," the Smack old boy said.

This is terrible. Which right thinking person would dare believe that being gay is a good thing after this sort of article. I am realy terrible because I am gay, arent I?

Am I really guilty as charged above?


DeTamble said...

Why do they always talk about sodomy and boys? What the girls? So maybe not in schools, or actually, yes in schools. At my school anyway, but it wasn't exactly forced.

DeTamble said...

*what about the girls


spiralx said...

Two things come immediately to mind:

One: teenagers will always experiment with sex, including homo-sex - esp. if that's all there is on offer. Apart from the usual small homosexual minority, they then go on to live quite average hetero lives.

Brazil, for example, has a male teen culture that often sees them hooked up with an older man at that time, before going on to be husbands and fathers for the rest of their lives.

Second: rape is, as I've pointed out before, not a matter of sex but of dominance, and power. A way of asserting 'power over'... often by people feeling insecure about themselves.

To limit such abuse (you'll probably never stop it - "there's always one", sad to say) you need to build a culture which values people for who they are, and encourages them to do the same for everyone around them.

(SSempa - are you lisstening...?).

gayuganda said...

Hi Spiralx,

wish Ssempa could listen...

But the whole point of the article was to blame us (us as in gay Ugandans.) Of course the tone is unmistakable. That is why I asked whether I am as guilty as charged. Because, in Uganda, though those who devilise us have the media open to them, we as gay Ugandans simply have no way of countering these official and semi-official lies.
I simply have to say that I am gay, and Ugandan. I was not forced. I was not raped. I have sex with my partner at the proverbial drop of the hat, and I love it. And last that I checked, he loves it!
But no, we must be pedophiles, or rapists, or other things but normal human beings. Because we are gay. Check out the next post, which I am daring to refute, because it has infuriated me!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

very informative post.

Anonymous said...

very sorry for society like this

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