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We, the Uganda Feminist Forum stand in solidarity with our sibling Sheebah Karungi as she speaks out against all forms of sexual violence including sexual assault and sexual harassment. Sheebah Karungi is a prolific musician, performer, social entrepreneur, and feminist. On May 9, 2022, she shared a video in which she spoke against sexual assault and revealed that she had been assaulted in her car at an event she had been hired to perform at. Sheebah rightly contextualizes this incident as part of a pattern of misuse of power primarily by men and urges men to refrain from objectifying women as “women own their bodies”.

Since Sheebah shared her experience, she has faced online violence in the form of trolling, bullying, and victim-blaming. Like many survivors before her, Sheebah has now been put on trial in the general public and media.

As the UFF, we reiterate the fundamental right of all women to their own bodies. We are appalled by the commentary that places blame on Sheebah and countless other survivors because their dress code is “revealing” and “enticing”. Women and all persons own their bodies and have a right to allow, refuse or limit access to their bodies. It is every woman’s right to express herself by dressing the way she chooses.

We further acknowledge the right of all women and all persons to carry out their work, free from violence and or harassment. Sheebah is one of the countless women in both the formal and informal sectors who have faced sexual harassment in the course of work. We know that the degradation of women in the workplace stems from patriarchal notions that women are always available for men’s sexual gratification, even when they work. We condemn sexual assault at the workplace and affirm the right of every woman to feel safe, to be respected, and to be acknowledged at the workplace.

As African feminists, we underscore that all forms of sexual violence including rape, indecent assault, and sexual harassment stem from patriarchal social relations, structures, and systems. Patriarchy is a system of male authority that legitimizes the oppression of women through political, social, economic, legal, cultural, religious, and military institutions. We remain committed to the important work of dismantling all forms of patriarchal oppression and exploitation so that all persons can enjoy full dignity and rights.

Lastly, we note the irresponsible and misguided coverage of this issue. Up to 22% of women aged 15 to 49 reported experiencing some form of sexual violence according to the 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey. This is a marker of the seriousness of issues relating to sexual violence, and we implore the media to cover it as such. The sensationalization and trivialization of such an important issue contribute to rape culture and maintain the power structure that leaves women and gender non-conforming people vulnerable to violence.

As the Uganda Feminist Forum, we remain committed to supporting and amplifying the voices of all survivors of sexual assault. We come forth with all our primal tools of resistance, our voices and bodies to oppose the entitlement inculcated in men and perpetuated by a society that justifies such behavior. We affirm the rights of women and all people to dignity and bodily autonomy, as well as the right to work in a safe environment. 

We stand in revolutionary love and solidarity with our sister-sibling, Sheebah Karungi.

#RespectAllFearNone #InSolidarityWithSheebah