It is lunch time my, colleagues and I are having the same argument that has become common talk at this office. This is an argument that has for a while now, popped up whenever I find myself in the company of men discussing Gender Roles. I am always defending my case that is: Ugandan men get the better bargain in marriage.
When men in Uganda get married, they will automatically relinquish their ability to cook and clean their houses, they will forget how to do their laundry and even when they go to work at the same time and rant about the same complexities of employment, she will be expected to ensure that the evening meal is cooked, the house is clean, the kids are fed and the kids are tucked. All the while the formidable husband sits on the couch and takes a breather from the tiring day. For some men, there is a special sofa in the living room to lounge in as their supper gets ready. This is the expectation society pinned on the boys and the girls.
So, on this particular lunch break, I am speaking to 20-something-year-olds at the office and their argument is that that is what it is supposed to be, thus the conversation always ends in them sending me Genesis chapter one to read about God creating a female helper for the man He had created.
“So are you saying you do not believe in the bible?” they ask.
I see what they are trying to do, because I am a loyal church-going woman. At this, my mind goes to work, quickly fighting to go past this guilt trip.
“Have you ever asked yourselves whether the Word “helper” got lost in translation, or better still, have you ever wondered if this wasn’t another way of controlling women?” I ask, and they gaze at me like I am on a highway to hell for questioning the bible.
“We Africans should stop behave like the whites.” One of the guys says.
I shake my head.
A silence ensues but this silence indicates that the argument is not over. They quickly dismiss me as delusional and over the top in my beliefs on feminism. I find myself feeling disappointed that these young people are trapped in the rubbles of beliefs in a culture that has for long oppressed women and exalted men.
This heated argument was sparked off by the comments of Onesmus Twinamasiko, a Ugandan Member of parliament who said during an interview here with NTV. Mr. Twiinamatsiko was responding to comments made by the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni during the women’s day celebrations on March 8th. In his speech, Mr Museveni blasts men who abuse their wives and urges them to use better approaches to problem solving.
“As a man, you need to discipline your wife. You need to, you know, touch her a bit; tackle her and beat her somehow, to streamline her.” He said in an Interview.
These comments made me weary. I don’t know how to respond especially that it is the 21st Century. But as the good book says. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Unfortunately, this seems to be the Locker room talk among men in Uganda. Yet,
Although the young men at the office quickly condemned the legislator’s comments and said that is barbaric to beat a spouse, the thinking that women are less than men still linger. In the ever changing world of empowered women, maybe it is time we need to have a serious conversation about masculinity with the men of our land.