Makerere Law Professor blasts Minister Lokodo over Nyanzi nude protest

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Sylivia Tamale, a law professor at Makerere University has blasted the Ethics and Integrity minister Fr Simon Lokodo for issuing arrest warranty for Dr Stella Nyanzi when she staged a nude protest.

While delivering her inaugural professorial lecture titled : Nudity, protest and the law in Uganda at Makerere, yesterday, Prof Tamale said Lokodo is impartially enforcing the law which does not conform with the principles of the discipline.

"Ladies and gentlemen, how do we reconcile the fact that Lokodo's people, the women and men of Karomoja, even today move around naked or semi-naked in public without sanction? How do we reconcile that Lokodo is the same man attempting to impose sanctions on public nakedness. The written law does not prohibit nakedness," Prof Tamale fumed.

Dr Stella Nyanzi is a research fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research (Misr) who is currently on suspension following the nude protest she staged in April this year. Nyanzi was protesting what she termed as oppression from her boss Prof Mahmood Mamdani.

A committee that was instituted to investigate the matter later found that Dr Nyanzi was "guilty of gross misconduct" and the appointments board of the university has since called her for talks in vain. It's after this nude protest that Lokodo issued arrest warranty for Nyanzi, saying she had violated the Anti-pornography act.

But Tamale said exposing nakedness by elderly women and mothers is a symbolic act in most African cultures and considered an ultimate curse. She premised her argument on the fact that through pregnancy, childbirth and nurturing, women are the givers of life.

"By stripping naked in front of men old enough to be her children, or grandchildren, a mother is symbolically taking back the life that she gave, and so in a way, pronouncing death upon them. It is conferring social death on those violating their freedoms," she lectured.

Prof Tamale also said that a naked body is not the same as the nude one. She explained that nudity presupposes display and invites sexual connotations while nakedness asserts agency in the shedding of clothes.

Prof Tamale also punched holes in the law enforcing public morality, saying that if it was really about public morality, then the commoditied nude or half-nude bodies of women that are routinely displayed on billboards, in the mass media, on screens and stages for male gaze would be banned.

She therefore concluded the lecture by saying: " Naked female protesting bodies are quite different from lewd nude bodies as the former represent defiance and agency while the latter represent sexual objectification."

Who is Prof Tamale

Prof Tamale is currently a professor of Law at Makerere University, who holds a bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degree from the same university, a masters in the same discipline (LL. M) from Harvard University and a PhD in sociology and feminism studies from the university of Minnesota.

She also obtained a diploma in the legal practice (Dip.L.P) from the law development centre in Kampala and is an advocate in the Courts of Judicature in Uganda. She was also the first Dean of Law at Makerere (2004-2008) and founded the Law, Gender and Sexuality  (LGS) at the school of Law.

She also serves on many international boards, has written a number of books including When Hens Begin to Crow: Gender and Parliamentary politics in Uganda that was published in 1999, among other publications and achievements.