Watchers watch Yourselves

Five days ago, in Uganda, surfaced a horrific video of a woman beating and stepping on a toddler with indescribable violence and frustration. She was taking care of the...

Five days ago, in Uganda, surfaced a horrific video of a woman beating and stepping on a toddler with indescribable violence and frustration. She was taking care of the 18 months old girl whilst her parents were working. The father of the toddler hid a camera in the house after he saw bruises on his daughter’s body some time before; the caretaker has been prosecuted and could now face up to 15 years of prison time.

Even though the images of violence on a toddler are extremely harsh to watch, more than 20 million people have watched this video today.

The obsessiveness and sick curiosity that has driven so many people to watch this gruesome video is worrying. Inevitably, it highlights the well known grim attraction human beings have towards invading privacy, and the fact that the video has been viewed so many times on social media stresses how technology has made this so much easier.  Tom Head stated that “as technology improves, privacy as we know it will inevitably evaporate; the best we can hope for is the power to watch the watchers”; a point missing here is that the watchers should watch themselves. As users of the internet and social media, we should be more aware of the use we make of these platforms.

Facebook User- “watcher”

Although the primary purpose (at least in intent) why social net-workers post these videos is to ‘raise awareness’ on such issues and let people know what “is going on in the world”, this usually does not happen. Unfortunately what often happens is that once the video is over, watchers either post a comment on how shocked they are or scroll down their Facebook home page, usually not asking themselves what happened to the abuser or the abused, what debate such an event has raised or thinking about what can be done about it. The action which had the intent of being active, inevitably becomes passive.

The debates that this video has raised are a clear representation of what this passive watching and superficial commenting results to. It is media misuse at its peek.

Some argue that this video should be a push for mothers to leave work and stay at home with their children, to protect them from evil domestic workers. Other than increasing the size of an already enormous gender gap , this is also not an intelligent long-term solution that will help in solving this sort of problem.

Another debate this video has raised in Uganda is whether it is safe to pay for domestic workers. The police has advised that people “[take] great care while selecting domestic helpers.”, recommending that families do background checks with friends, neighbours, local police, council and previous employers before taking on such an employee”. Additionally, Ugandan police suggested that employers should treat their domestic workers better, so that they in turn will work to their satisfaction, an argument backed by many online. It is needless to say that tackling the individual problem of the employer will not solve the issue; it is and should be the problem of the Ugandan government to regulate domestic work.

In this particular case, if watchers and commentators actually cared about this issue, they would avoid superficial comments and concentrate on gaining as much information possible on the Laws and Regulations of Domestic work in Uganda, in order to be able to respond actively to the issue. In Uganda, the Employment Act 2006 states that there is no permit requirement for one to recruit a domestic servant for employment. Beyond this there is no other specific provision in the Constitution of Uganda or the labour laws regarding domestic workers in Uganda. There is no fixed wage for a domestic worker and the wage usually depends on what the employer is willing to pay or what the domestic worker is willing to accept. Domestic workers are usually paid very little, and since the minimum wage in Uganda has not been changed since 1984, it is not hard to imagine how low they are paid.

It is not the first time that such horrific news has surfaced in Uganda, other children have been tortured, and even killed, by their caretakers. Another important fact is that most domestic workers are young themselves. Despite the constitutional rights of children in the legal framework; child domestic workers still exist in Uganda, and usually contributing factors to child labour are poverty, abuse or their parents dying of HIV/AIDS. Regulating Domestic work and Childcare would be a step towards solving this problem. Episodes like the one filmed should not happen again.

In conclusion, this should be an incentive for watchers on social media to respect the privacy of others, and to act in a more proactive way towards certain issues. Expressing horror, shock and hatred towards such gruesome images will not change the facts, or whether these episodes will or will not happen again. Getting informed on the subject and raising awareness about it, being active in campaigning against a social issue that a video may raise, maybe in the long term will change things.

The video is not posted in this article.

Virginia Vigliar

Virginia is a freelance journalist and editor based in Barcelona, consults for Oxfam in Spain and the Netherlands, and she is the Chief Editor of WIB. She is a passionate advocate of human rights and freedom of speech. And a meme enthusiast. She has worked in the development sector in Malawi and Kenya and Somalia before returning to Europe, where she gained experience in the United Kingdom, Norway, and Spain. To see her work, look at her website here:
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