(AA) – On Feb. 18 of last year, Ugandan Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo announced that President Yoweri Museveni had signed into law a bill aimed at curbing pornography in the East African country.
The law defines pornography as any representation – in any form – of a person engaged in real or stimulated sexual activity or any representation of the human body for the purpose of sexual arousal.
A person who produces, participates in the production of, or disseminates pornography – in any form – is liable to a fine of no more than ten million Ugandan shillings (roughly $3,500) and/or up to ten years in jail.
However, one year on since the passage of the law, it’s still easy to obtain cheap pornography in Uganda.
Social media outlets, such as Facebook, are awash with phone numbers for anyone interested in buying pornographic material.
For as little as $3, one is able to obtain pornographic material, which one Anadolu Agency reporter did.
At around 11am, AA reporter posted a message on her Facebook page asking for contacts through which she might acquire such materials.
In less than 30 minutes, the reporter received several references to a particular number. When she dialed it, she was asked by a woman to connect to WhatsApp, a smart-phone messaging service, via which the material would be sent.
Nantumbwe Gorreti (not the real name), who claimed to be an unemployed university graduate, asked for $17 in “consultation fees” promising “real good tips to improve your sex life.”
After some bargaining, the price came down to $7.
“I’m going to send you videos that can teach you,” Gorreti said.
The first audio came 30 minutes later, along with a picture of a white woman in revealing underwear.
“I’m sending you another one with action – give me one hour,” Gorreti said.
As promised, two more videos – along with more audio – were sent.
They explain to women how to welcome men, position themselves, and “take charge” of the action, along with words to use that are “pleasing to men.”
Men are also told what to say and how to please their women.
The videos emphasize certain sex-related cultural practices common among Ugandan tribes.
Lokodo, the ethics minister, for his part, insisted that the Anti-Pornography Act was stringent enough to serve as a deterrent.
“What I want to acknowledge as a weakness on my part – and my government’s – is the enforcement of the law,” he told AA.
“We don’t have enough information on who is doing what where,” Lokodo admitted.
“Otherwise, whenever we learn that in a certain pub nude dancing is being conducted, or at a cinema a pornographic film is being watched, or we learn that so-and-so is using social media for pornographic material, we always come in,” he added.
The minister recognized that the government’s “biggest problems” were how to find the culprits and their own limited resources.
The Anti-Pornography Act calls for the establishment of an anti-pornography committee to expedite the development, acquisition and installation of software in electronic equipment – such as computers, televisions and phones – for the detection and suppression of pornography.
“As soon as this committee is in place and we acquire this equipment, then nobody will escape our catch,” Lokodo told AA.
“This equipment is able to filter all that comes in and out of electronic systems, so we shall know if someone is watching a pornographic film and block his/her line,” he said.
As to whether or not it will be an expensive venture for the government, the minister insisted the expenditure would be “worthwhile.”
“We are doing this for the most stubborn and hardhearted persons,” Lokodo said, without elaborating or explaining how such persons would be identified.
He asserted, meanwhile, that the authorities had embarked on a campaign to raise awareness among communities, families and institutions about the danger of pornography.
“We need to ensure that those who have a duty to nurture our children do not allow them to access anything, anywhere, anytime – especially if it is detrimental to their learning capacity,” Lokodo told AA.
He believes it would be wise for people to rely on local cultures, where paternal aunts take responsibility for advising girls about marital and sexual issues.
The minister, however, criticized the commercialization of the practice.
“Instead of carrying out verbal education in-camera, they now do it on the radio after midnight, describing for people how to position themselves,” Lokodo said.
“They even go to the extent of recording DVDs and record people acting what they are saying – and these people are paid for that,” he added.
“I can’t believe that with the law in place, people are so adamant – the cultural purpose is lost,” the ethics minister lamented.
“The level at which it has gone up now is what I am not happy with. Indeed, I have gone ahead to arrest these aunties,” he said.
Since last December, Ugandan police have summoned or arrested numerous people on charges of distributing pornographic material on DVDs.
One of them, Justine Nantume, is a local television presenter.
However, when contacted for comment, Nantume told AA she had been arrested “on bogus charges.”
“I have nothing to say to you,” she said curtly.
Others to have had run-ins with the law over pornography include local musicians and television anchors who posted bail.
Officials at Uganda’s Media Crimes Department have yet to provide AA with the exact numbers of those arrested.
Minister Lokodo, for his part, appeared oblivious regarding the use of social media and phone-messaging services to sell phonography.
“I want to go to WhatsApp and know what is really happening there,” he told AA after hearing about this reporter’s run-in with Goretti.
“Where do they put the pornography? I’m told you can download. Where do they get it from?” the minister asked.
He suggested that the “real issue” behind the trend was “moral decadence.”
“We have lost our values; we don’t respect norms. This is all because of this famous ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘freedom of behavior,’ which are being abused,” he said.
Lokodo slammed those who sent pornographic images – unsolicited – to people’s cellphones.
“Why do you pollute people’s air? There’s something I want to see and you give me the wrong one,” he said.
It remains unclear how the government will penalize individuals found distributing pornographic material.