Uganda’s speaker of parliament advice to MPs stems from a patriarchal heritage

On September 12, ten days before the upcoming 64th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, Uganda’s speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, began dishing unsolicited advice to her Members of Parliament (MPs). She urged them to observe etiquette, respect the official dress code and warned them against indulging with delegates. The advice which stems from a patriarchal heritage is a clear impediment of one’s free will and interest – especially females, and the dominance of their male counterparts.

According to Kadaga, several members of the Ugandan parliament had been impregnated by Tanzanian delegates a few years ago when Uganda held a summit with Tanzania and for that, Ugandan female MP’s should not “take risks, don’t get involved, a man may come from Jamaica and you won’t see him again, and for the men, a woman from down in the Pacific, you cannot find her again. We must be very careful in whatever we do,” Kadaga said.

“When you take delegates to their rooms, stop at the door, you can put in the luggage together with the hotel waiter but don’t loiter in those rooms both women and men. Do your work and leave,” Kadaga added.

These days, women are beginning to get more involved in politics and government, although there is still disparity and women’s involvement aren’t equal to men’s. Uganda’s 10th Parliament (2016-2021) comprises a 35 percent representation for women, however, representation at the local government level, in elected positions is less than three percent for women and over 96 percent for men.

The speaker who also used the occasion to emphasise the significance of hosting the global event asked the MP’s not to drink excessively, not to overload their plates as well as mixing dessert and food said,“The people who are coming will be able to know more about our country and speak about us, so whatever experience they get from here, they will use it for or against us.” “Your drinking should be done in your homes and avoid the smell of alcohol in the morning,” added.

While there is a need to combat a power structure based on male supremacy, advising against wearing mini skirts and sexually indulging with the delegates not only stems from a patriarchal heritage it also highlights a greater societal problem.

Patriarchy is upheld by powerful cultural norms and it has a way of manifesting itself as the natural or inevitable thing to do. There is the idea that not all men enthusiastically uphold it or benefit equally from it; and that some women may, on the other hand, do a great deal towards supporting it. Like in the case with Kadaga.

There has been a debate of moral decadence in Uganda among Members of Parliament. The Members of Parliament debated a motion to promote national moral consciousness and social ethical normalcy. According to the MP’s, most of the vices like corruption, sexual harassment and commercialization of politics among others, have been attributed to a wanting moral upbringing of members of society. While Kadaga’s advice may be in line with the country’s moral consciousness, it does not say well of the country and it sure doesn’t warrant her telling people what they should do with their bodies.