Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"There is no medicine for rape" & "All women are monogamous"

by Holly

I’m a bit of a geek with data--so I really can't wait to play with all the wonderful information I'm collecting right now. Statistics is the only kind of maths I've ever come close to doing well (I almost failed secondary level geometry, did fail algebra the first time, and barely passed amidst a lot of hard work and tears the second time). Loving this stuff as I do, I happily spent days on a papyrus mat under the mango tree in the Local Councilor's compound extracting the names of all the women from 9 books of census data that he collected last year to get the random sample of women I’m interviewing right now. It should have been mind-numbingly boring—but I get kind of a kick out of it. And I couldn’t beat the venue. The kids around would show off their reading skills over my shoulder exlaiming every name they recognized: “that’s my aunty” or, “we always see her at the borehole.” More than once I shooed chickens off of the books and away from my computer.

I came to this village first in 2006 and since then I’ve gotten to know many of the families so I was able to compare the census data with what I know. It’s fascinating to see how social realities translate into ticks and numbers in boxes. By necesity, categories obscure truths. Unlike FB, here is no “it’s complicated” option for relationships. Women I know are separated/divorced from their husbands listed themselves as married. After entering several booksworth of data I noticed that the code for a spouse of a polygamous relationship was only used for men. I asked the LC about it. I wish you could have seen his face. He looked at me incredulously and laughed: “Can a woman have more than one man!?” (this was clearly a rhetorical question) “ALL women are monogamous!” Later I repeated this to a few Ugandan girlfriends--they laughed so hard I started wondering if maybe they were crying.

I also noticed that the Ajwaka (often translated as “witchdoctos” or “traditional healers”) in the area , listed their main source of income as “support from children.” Right.

I interviewed one of them a few days ago—not because she is an Ajwaka. She happened to be in my sample, but I threw in a few extra questions at the end of the interview about her work. When I told her I was interested in learning more about the work of Ajwaka, her eyes got big and she said, "Well, I'm veee--eery good at it!" She proudly explained how her father had chosen her to inherit his power instead of any of the boys in her family and listed the many spiritual ailments she is well known for curing: broken legs, cross-eyes, when people give you unfair portions of food, if your house regularly catches fire, if your eyes close abruptly and won’t open again, blindness, unfaithfulness--especially in men, asthma, all mental illness and many other sicknesses. (I couldn't help but recall that her husband is blind and she had earlier complained that her daughter-in-law never gives her enough food...but I decided this wasn't the right time to bring it up)

I was curious if any women who have experienced sexual violence had ever come to her for help—so I asked. She laughed at me (I get that a lot).

“There is no medicine for rape! I tell them to go and report to the government so that the man is arrested and they will be safe!”


How I do wish there was a medicine for rape.

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