Dr. Stella Nyanzi, a 72-year-old Ugandan university lecturer and activist, is being held behind bars in a maximum-security prison in Kampala for criticizing the President on her Facebook page. Nyanzi was arrested on April 7, 2017, two months after she had described President Yoweri Museveni as “pair of buttocks”. She was charged under the Computer Misuse Act of 2011 with cyber-harassment and offensive communication. Nyanzi pleaded not guilty and is due to appear in court on April 25.
Nyanzi has been leading a campaign against the government’s failure to follow its commitment to supply sanitary pads to schoolgirls, despite the fact that 3 out of 10 girls in Uganda are missing school due to menstruation.
Nyanzi holds a PhD in sexuality and queer studies and is a qualified medical epidemiologist. She criticized the President’s wife, Janet Kataaha Museveni, who serves as the Minister of Education, for rejecting the project due to lack of funding. Nyanzi wrote on a Facebook post:
“What sort of a mother allows her daughters to keep away from school because they are too poor to afford padding materials that would adequately protect them from the shame and ridicule that comes by staining their uniforms with menstrual blood? What malice plays in the heart of a woman who sleeps with a man who finds money for millions of bullets, billions of bribes, and uncountable ballots to stuff into boxes but she cannot ask him to prioritise sanitary pads for poor schoolgirls?”
Nyanzi’s crowdfunding campaign Pads4Girls has managed to obtain pads for 1 million girls within two weeks, leading Nyanzi to set her next goal to 10 million and declare: “the only way I will stop is if women stop bleeding”.
According to the Freedom House’s 2016 Freedom of the Net report, Uganda is marked as ‘Partly Free’. Social media platforms are being blocked and bloggers are being arrested for expressing their opinions online. The press freedom in the state is also marked as partly free.
During the 2016 elections, access to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, were blocked in Uganda. Three social media users were reported to be arrested and charged since 2015 for “offensive communications” over criticizing the government on social media and posting content online deemed to be offensive towards the President.