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Women are seen crossing the Busunga bridge back into Uganda.
Martin Karimi/EU/ECHO
Girls & Women

The Good Reason These Ugandan Women Charge Their Husbands for Sex

Why Global Citizens Should Care
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. You can join us by taking action on gender equality and the rest of the Global Goals here.

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.

More than 30,000 Ugandan wives have reported exacting a sex tax on their irresponsible spouses, reports OZY, with officials suspecting that actual numbers may be much higher.

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“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. 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, according to an interview with OZY. By 2016, that number had jumped to 5,000. Now, tens of thousands of emboldened women are following suit.

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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.

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Still, the sex-tax tactic has experienced a backlash.

“Why should wives charge for sex in order to get economic gains?” Reverend Father Simon Lokodo, Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity, told OZY in an interview.

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.

"Men who beat women are foolish and cowardly," said Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, according to Ugandan Christian News.

And 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.”