Women in Uganda face systemic gender discrimination and moral bias. But through innovative initiatives like a $6 sex tax, some wives are able to gain consistent financial support for themselves and their children.
What began as one woman’s last-ditch effort to entice her cheating husband to support their family has turned into a nationwide women’s rights effort in Uganda. The strategy is forcing some irresponsible spouses to support their families
More than 30,000 Ugandan wives have reported exacting a sex tax on their irresponsible spouses, with officials suspecting that actual numbers may be much higher.
“If the men are irresponsible and it is the only way their wives can get money from them to run the homes, let them go ahead and tax sex,” says Tina Musuya, a leading women’s rights activist and executive director of the nonprofit Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP).
The controversial tactic — ranging from $3 to $6 — that these Ugandan women are employing is intended to get their husbands to pay for household expenses and experience a consequence for refusal to do chores and so far, it’s picking up steam.
In 2015, just 150 women reported demanding money from their husbands for sex to the Mothers Union, an Anglican organization. By 2016, that number had jumped to 5,000. Now, tens of thousands of emboldened women are following suit.
In a country such as Uganda, where systemic gender discrimination and moral bias are baked into the social structure, many feel a sex tax is the only way for some women to get what they need to support their families.
Both legislation and cultural laws deny women the right to own, inherit, and control the use of land and property, according to Women’s Advancement Deeply. Some don’t even have keys to their own houses.
Yet, these same women are often expected to take on the brunt of childrearing and housework without consistent access to money to pay for basic needs, food, or health care.
Fewer than half of Ugandan women made at least four visits — the minimum number recommended by the World Health Organization — to antenatal care centers, according to UNICEF.
“Why should wives charge for sex in order to get economic gains?” Reverend Father Simon Lokodo, Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity, querried.
Some husbands have even responded to requests for money with domestic abuse. But while not all government officials agree on how to handle the unofficial levy on lovemaking, most agree that physical abuse as retaliation is inexcusable.
According to a recent report, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said, “Men who beat women are foolish and cowardly.”
Women’s right activists like Musuya understand that until Ugandan women can expect equal rights in their country, they will continue to find ways to reclaim their dignities, such as the sex tax.
“It was because of the unity of all persuasions of people that we were able to end apartheid,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, at the launch of Global Citizen’s #SheIsEqual campaign in June. “We are not at that point yet for gender equality. It is about drawing a line, and everyone being on the same side of the line.”