With every passing day, thousands of innocent people like you, are having their once peaceful lives rocked to the core in mere seconds through the vile and pitiless act of revenge pornography. Advances in technology have transformed and expanded the ways in which sexual violence can be perpetrated. One new manifestation of such violence is the non-consensual creation and/or distribution of private sexual images: what we conceptualize as ‘image-based sexual abuse’. Revenge porn or revenge pornography is the distribution of sexually explicit images or video of individuals without their permission. The sexually explicit images or video may be made by a partner of an intimate relationship with the knowledge and consent of the subject, or it may be made without his or her knowledge.

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These betrayals destroy lives , cause significant emotional distress and in various cases lead to death both physical or otherwise by suicide. Revenge pornography has also been seen to have serious mental health implications for victims and their loved ones. Victims must cope with long-term personal and psychological consequences, given that the disseminated photographs or videos may continue to haunt them throughout their lives. In fact studies have reveled that revenge porn survivors suffer similar trauma as sexual assault survivors. we have as a people normalized abuse and this is not normal!!

Image based violence is symptomatic of the prevalence and persistence of patriarchy in which female chastity is valued. Women who are perceived as deviating from this norm, for example, by “allowing” themselves to be photographed naked, are derided and chastised in the court of public opinion. The way laws in Uganda are designed and used is an example of the politicization of the female body, which is recognizable in all patriarchal societies. Hereby, the female body itself becomes gendered as moral values and norms are reflected on to every single female body. (Male) politicians are using these societal gendered attributions of women and the perceptions of how they have or have not to present their body to introduce oppressing laws. Through this power relation woman are exposed to physical and psychological violence through men but also other women of the society.

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Many have argued against the victims ,because they took the photos themselves and yes , up to 80% of revenge porn victims took the offending pictures themselves and sometimes willingly, which means that they own the rights to those pictures/ videos. The victims have a  right to privacy in their intimate photographs and videos and therefore for the general public and the online dissemination of that media without consent is an invasion of that sexual privacy amounting to a violation. We have glorified the abusers so much and forgotten that it is the abuser that should be punished , not the victim! No one’s abusive reality should ever be sold as a fantasy!! It is therefore vital that we understand, confront and appropriately regulate image-based sexual abuse, which has steadily and effectively seeped into the practices of communities worldwide, (re)shaping gender relations and embedding itself as part of the cultural wallpaper. Recourse to law is one means by which we can achieve these aims, alongside vital educative campaigns. The challenge, of course, is how to regulate image-based sexual abuse while enabling women (in particular) to exercise their rights to sexual autonomy and expression in ways of their choosing. The answer, we suggest, lies not in self-restraint: we should all be free to choose how we express ourselves sexually. Rather, it lies in the acceptance and promotion of a social and cultural reality in which consent, respect and dignity shape and secure our sexual lives.

We must all be aware that online privacy violation will probably be the most important political issue in the next decade and revenge porn is just a small part of it. What are we doing now to learn and unlearn, what are we going to do about this ‘new normal’ ?

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Femme Forte Uganda in partnership with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung has made an initial step with a conversation slated for this weekend to try and ;

• Discuss the manifestation of image based violence in Uganda
• Identify the structures that enable image based violence in Uganda
• Analyse the effect of image based violence on women’s participation the public (social, political and economic)
• Provide recommendations on how image based violence can be combated in Uganda.

I want to appeal to you to make a contribution to this conversation both physically and online. Follow the hashtags #Safezoneug  #Iamfemmeforte and #RedefiningBeauty to share your thoughts. RSVP  to physically attend the conversation. Together we can!!

Comments (1)

  1. Valid points, thank you for sharing.

    My concern is that women want to have their cake and eat it too. “The challenge, of course, is how to regulate image-based sexual abuse while enabling women (in particular) to exercise their rights to sexual autonomy and expression in ways of their choosing.” Isn’t this the issue?

    I’m also concerned about the call to remove all restraint. When humanity is left to its own devices we get a “Lord of the Flies” situation. Rules and guidelines and moral awareness should help define the extents of freedom. Or soon we will be discussing how we are justified to have several sexual partners to enable women to exercise their rights to sexual autonomy and expression.

    I know there are no quick and easy answers but with more freedoms comes more responsibility, that is the part that many are not ready to accept.

    Hope the session is a success.

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