10 November 2012

Uganda: Romance in the Open - to Show or Not to Show Public Affection?


So many times, singer Bebe Cool and his wife Zuena Kirema have been caught on camera, in random shows of public affection.

A public display of affection is the physical demonstration of intimacy for a lover or spouse while in the view of others. Holding hands, hugging or kissing in public are common examples.

Bebe Cool is never shy about kissing Zuena during concerts, always walking with her and hugging as if they have just met. On the other hand, other men use the excuse of culture to abstain from public affection.

Several women contend that they may not tell their husbands to 'touch' their hair in public, give them a peck or hold their hands while walking, but they feel good when it is done.

There are many politicians who will never be seen with their wives in public, until it is time to hit the campaign trail, which critics say is just a political gimmick.

Soroti Municipality Member of Parliament Capt. Mike Mukula had never had a problem showing affection to his wife, Gladys. On May 25, 2007, when he was released from detention, he kissed his wife in court.

Suzan Nazziwa, a counsellor at Nyango Counselling Centre in Nateete, a city suburb, thinks people who have experienced sexual or physical abuse may find it difficult to receive or give affection, even if it means simple things like caressing or hugging.

She advises such people to seek help from mental health professionals or marriage counsellors.

But she warns that the beginning may be a little difficult.

For those with trouble showing affection, especially in relationships or in parenting, it may be worthwhile to get through this phase to improve relationships.

Annet Aminat, a family counsellor at SAS Clinic and a member of Uganda Counselling Association, says most men who do not show affection were not shown affection while growing up.

"Such men feel that they are not men enough when they show affection to their wives in public. Some have peer pressure from friends; they do not want their friends to see them as men who 'bend low' for women," explains Aminat.

How was it done then?

Public display of affection is foreign to the common African man. For the female folk it comes natural. The practice is not a big deal for most relationships, but for others, it is a no-go area in public.

Retired Archbishop Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo says in Buganda culture, kissing was abominable. Instead, a woman would pick a piece of meat from their plate during a meal and give it to you to show love.

Stephen Rwangyezi, the head of Ndere Cultural Troupe, said in an earlier interview with the New Vision that in western Uganda, especially among the Bakiga and Banyankole, showing affection was done away from public eyes. "There was a romantic treat called okuhotora (massage). A woman would light fire in the evening after sending the children to sleep."

Rwanngyezi said the fire was used to melt ghee and massage the husband and then he too would massage his wife.

The Banyankole also expressed affection through okwagaga (caressing) sensitive body parts like the neck, breasts and the back. But all this was done away from people.

Showing affection to my wife is something that I love doing because I would also expect her to do the same.

Affection is what everyone in a relationship wants. I have no problem kissing Zuena in public because she is my wife. As a man, I am supposed to show love to her because she is important in my life. I do not take her for granted.

Such small things bring trust, happiness and joy in our relationship. I learnt that practice from my mother who showed me a lot of care.

Also, because I have travelled widely, I know how 'real' men behave. Men who are afraid of hugging their wives are just conservative. Affection has made our bond grow stronger.

The good thing is that no one ever raises eye brows when we kiss because they know she is my wife and I love her

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