Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Caught In The Middle

I am not one for being abusive. Okay I have sworn but I try to do so only as a last resort. When we talk about abuse, we think verbal abuse as in swearing. But there are other types of abuse that society has seemingly accepted and embraced. Have a read of this.
Chapter One: Child Abuse
It was late and we had stopped in Kansanga, in a bar that is known to stay open till the wee hours of the morning. It would have been 3:00am and that is where we found her sitting at the bar with not a care in the world.
But she had to care because she had a child with her – well not exactly a child but a baby who I would estimate was no more than three weeks old. Worse still, she was sitting next to a loud speaker that was belting out enough decibels of the song Jim by The Afrigo Band to keep Kansanga awake.
I had to ask and I did but not her, but the owner who was quick to offer a line of defence. He said: “But she came in at 5:00pm!” So she came at 5:00pm, it is now 3:00am.
When the lady sensed I was making a fuss, she called out to her partner who straddled up to me and assured me that, what his wife does with his kid is none of my business. “You can take yours home early if you want but don’t get involved in my affairs. Is it your kid” so he assured me.
Chapter Two: Mentally Incapacitated Abuse
I am not too sure if ‘mentally incapacitated’ is the correct wording to use. I have heard people use that while others say ‘retarded’. But whether it is ‘mentally incapacitated, mentally challenged or retarded’ people who fall into this bracket are still people.
However, we in Uganda take a dim view of them. In Wandegeya when she walked in to beg for a dime for something to eat, the waitresses were quick to react. In fact I have never seen waitresses move that fast! She picked up an empty bottle of mineral water and hurled it at the mentally incapacitated woman. And she did a verbal follow up in Luganda calling her everything from ‘stupid, mbuzi (goat) to mulalu (mad).
When we tried to tell the waitress that what she was doing was wrong, she looked at us and without batting an eyelid, she said: “In here we do not entertain mad people.”
But it didn’t stop there. A waiter turned up and with all his rage, he emptied her out onto the streets. With much regret nobody did anything, nobody said anything.
But I did and the response from the waiter was curt: “You can go and join her on the streets but not in here.”
To the waitresses, if you happen to read this article which I doubt you are, the mentally challenged are still people who have rights just like you and I have.
What are we supposed to do then? Do we keep quiet when we see a four week old baby being propped up on the bar counter at 3:00am? Do we also mind our own business when we see the mentally challenged being thrown out of places, being ridiculed and abused?
I have always tried to intervene in such cases, but the response I always get is: “TB, it is none of your business, leave it alone”.        

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