On the Sexuality of "Town Women" in Kampala
Abstract

"Town women" emerged in Uganda as a product of colonial urbanization and capitalist development in Kampala. The negative stereotyping of "town women" in Kampala, by scholars, colonial officials, medical officers and Ugandans alike, proceeds through a process of double liminalization. The identity of "town women" is constructed by means of a dual process of "othering," engaging two sets of binary oppositions: married woman/prostitute and town/country. Although two types of rural single women existed in pre-colonial Buganda, both representing a liminal category in contrast to the married woman, neither was subject to the degree of negative stereotyping that "town women" experienced. In colonial Kampala, "town women" were the objects of a double liminality. Regarding the binary town/country, the liminality lies in the naming itself and refers to the capitalist center of Kampala. As independent female householders whose livelihoods were based on selling domestic services to male migrant laborers (cooking food, brewing beer, and providing sex), "town women" were exclusively identified with the "prostitute" half of the binary married woman/ prostitute. In postcolonial Kampala, the negative stereotyping of "town women" continues in spite of vast changes in the economy and labor opportunities for women. The current generation of "town women" may achieve even greater economic and sexual independence, which perpetuates their liminality as "prostitutes" rather than "proper women." The current generation of "town women" have had the stigma of HIV-AIDS added to their identity, and, as "prostitutes," are labeled as the main carriers. Strategies of "town women" to produce healthy and educated children, including their adoption of HIV-AIDS orphans, may effectively counteract this negative stereotyping. To the extent that earnings from trading activities allow them to be better mothers, "town women" in Kampala may be evaluated closer to the "married woman" in the near future.


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