The things Ugandan women take for granted but are not acceptable elsewhere

It’s a man’s world they say but in Uganda the narrative is quite different. Surely, Uganda is one of the best countries to be a woman! Yes, many women may not be aware of the freedom this Pearl of Africa gives them.  In several countries across the world, masculinity is not a subject of debate. From Sharia laws to patriarchal cultures, these are some of the things that women in other parts of the world cannot get away with.


Ugandan women and girls might be taking relationships for granted but in some countries it’s a not even acceptable. Given the Islamic faith of the Gulf states, the whole issue of dating is, inevitably, a tricky one. Extramarital sexual relationships are illegal in the region, and kissing in public can also land you in trouble. Yes, having a bae can get you killed in countries like Pakistan! Not being killed by a mob or jealous person but your own parents! In this part of the world, this is described as ‘honour killing’, where a family ‘cleanses’ itself of a member whom they believe is behaving in a way that brings ‘dishonour’ to the family.  Last year, on September 20, a man in Peshawar, Pakistan killed his two daughters because he thought they had boyfriends, and felt “ashamed” about them dating. What’s even worse, they usually get away with this act.

Social media slayage

Slaying on social media is actually a privilege some women in certain parts of the world don’t get to experience. While you pout, show-off that fine backside or layers of skin by a poolside, in some countries, this could attract death! Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch, was killed by her brother after her Instagram photos became a national sensation.

Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch

She was described as ‘Pakistani’s Kim Kadarshian’ before her brother ended her life by strangulation because she brought ‘shame’ to the family.

Flirting or talking to men

In September last year, an Indian father killed her 13-year-old daughter after he saw her talking to an older boy in a manner he deemed suggestive. According to the reports, the father hit her on the wall before he set her on fire! However, in Uganda, women can flirt with an entire village and still insult men while at it.

Breaking up

In countries like Pakistan, divorce or separating from a man can get you killed!  Samia Shahid, 28, was raped and killed after she ‘dishonoured’ her family by divorcing Mohammed Shakeel, her cousin, after an arranged marriage. She then infuriated her relatives by getting wed for a second time after a secret divorce. Her father Muhammad was arrested over his daughter’s brutal murder in July 2016, along with her first husband, but was later released due to lack of evidence. In a similar incident, in UK, a British-Iraqi Kurdish woman who lived in Wimbledon, London, was murdered at age 20 in 2006 on the orders of her family.

Mahmod’s uncle and father had her raped and murdered, in revenge for her refusal to accept their determination to control who she saw and who she married.

Marrying one “above” your level

In Uganda, women detest the ‘broke guys”. Well, in some countries, there are castes; a social grouping that dictates one’s level of interaction. Marrying from a higher caste is not an elevation. It could get your man killed. Also falling for a less wealthy guy could get you or him killed!  Six men including the girl’s dad were sentenced to death in India for the “honour” killing of a Dalit man who had married a woman from a higher caste. See? Uganda no one cares if you fall for a ‘lower-class’ guy.

Dress code and wearing make up

In all countries in the Gulf States, modesty is the watchword when it comes to dress. Muslim women will feel right at home, but non-Muslims may struggle initially with the adjustment. As a general rule, one is expected to cover up shoulders and knees, and in some places, clothes covering up to wrists and ankles may be required. This stretches to sports too! Sportswomen are expected to cover their heads and show minimum skin at all times.

Make major decisions without male permission

Recently, Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women driving. However, despite lifting the ban some men were not pleased. Since they dictate what should be done, activists feared that some women might not enjoy the freedom because women are not allowed to make major decisions without male permission.

All women in the kingdom are considered to have a male “wali” – an official guardian, typically a father, brother, uncle or husband.

Although guardianship is not enshrined in written law, government officials, courts, businesses and individual Saudis generally act in accordance with it, meaning that, in practice, women need their guardian’s consent for any major activity, including travelling, obtaining a passport, getting married or divorced and signing contracts. This stems from the Quran that says, “Never will succeed such a nation as lets their affairs carried out by a woman”. As such, leadership positions and decision making is largely a male territory.

Wearing bras

In Uganda, pushup bras or showing off cleavage is an in-thing! If you have them, you flaunt them! However, in Somalia, this could trigger whipping! At the height of Al Shabaab insurgency in2009, Somalia gunmen rounded up any woman seen with a firm bust and then had them publicly whipped by masked men. The women were then told to remove their bras and shake their breasts. Al shabaab forced them to wear their type of veil. They introduced a hard fabric which stands stiffly on women’s chests. They stated that breasts should be firm naturally, or just flat and not accentuated by “deceptive bras”.