’Lokodo Anti-Porn Push Breaking the Law’

On October 17, Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo netted one of the first victims of the recently- passed anti-pornography law.

Working alongside police, Lokodo, a Catholic priest, went to Makindye and arrested controversial musician Jemimah Kansiime, better known to her fans as Panadol Wa Basajja, and her producer Muchwa March Didi Mugisha.

The duo’s ‘crime’ was to produce songs and music videos that the new legislation deems pornographic. Eventually, Didi was bailed out by his lawyers. Kansiime, on the other hand, was remanded.

For the last four weeks, Dodoth West MP Lokodo has led a crusade around Kampala cracking down on people deemed to have breached any section of the anti-pornography law, which President Museveni assented to on February 6. Yet, in his application of the law, Lokodo stands accused of circumventing some aspects of the new legislation. The minister is supposed to form a Pornography Control Committee (PCC), to receive complaints about transgressions.

In a recent interview, Lokodo admitted that he had so far been operating outside that particular section of the new law. Asked how he has hitherto been zeroing in on suspected offenders, Lokodo replied: “I only rely on whistle-blowers for now nothing else.”

Work of PCC:

According to anti-pornography law, the PCC will consist of nine members, including a chairperson nominated by Uganda Law Society, representatives from media houses, artistes, cultural and religious leaders. The members must have high integrity and at least 10 years’ experience in law, theology, information communication and technology, journalism, psychiatry or counselling.

Under Section 7 of the law, the committee shall develop and install software on electronic equipment such as computers, mobile phones and televisions for detection and suppression of pornography. With police support, the PCC will also ensure that perpetrators of pornography are apprehended and prosecuted, and collect and destroy pornographic materials.

Unilateral decisions:

Without the PCC, analysts believe, Lokodo’s unilateral decision-making on the subject could be blurred by his own prejudices. Just 13 days after supervising the arrest of Kansiime and her producer, Lokodo ordered the arrest of Desire Luzinda after the musicianiacutes estranged boyfriend leaked her nude pictures.

The anti-pornography law describes pornography as “any representation through publication, exhibition, cinematography, indecent show, information technology or by whatever mean, of a person engaged in real or stimulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual excitement.”

However, as Patience Kwiyo, a Kampala resident, notes, the minister is going after an easy target, a woman, instead of the man who wronged her.

“Sharing private nude photos of a person without their permission, in an attempt to humiliate and strip them of their sexual agency is an act of sexual violence and a violation of privacy,” Kwiyo said in a letter to The Observer.

Court battle:

However, Lokodo told The Observer that the initial hiccups notwithstanding, the law needed to start biting.

“We have finished compiling a list of candidates (for the PCC) that has to be submitted to Cabinet for approval soon,” Lokodo said, adding that some members were yet to submit such things as curriculum vitae.

Yet even before Lokodo resolves the PCC problem, activists and civil society organisations have petitioned the Constitutional court. The activists, who include Makerere university law don Sylvia Tamale, Sarah Kihika, Lillian Drabo and the Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention (Cedovip), argue that the act breaches constitutional guarantees of individual freedoms and rights of women.

Tina Musuya, the Cedovip executive director, literally accused the minister of only speaking out about women issues, yet there are many other problems with the law.

“This doesn’t mean he is on ground but, rather, shaming women yet he has the duty to protect the victims and not parading them before the media.”

Musuya cited the case of Luzinda, where the minister went after the singer yet it was his estranged lover, the Nigerian Franklin Emuobor, who leaked the pictures. Through lawyer John Francis Onyango, the petitioners say the definition of pornography is vague and subjective in character.

The petition also highlights about 44 cases where mobs have used the law as an excuse to target and strip women they consider to be indecent. Onyango notes that the creation of the PPC to implement the law “confers wide and discretionary powers in contravention of the rights to personal liberty, privacy and property.”

Source : The Observer

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