BY SIMON OKURUT PETER VIA UAH
The practice of latrines was alien to our cultures and even today, there are people who fear to use latrines because of cultural taboos. For instance, women in some cultures refuse to use pit-latrines because they believe such women will not produce.
In some parts of Teso people still use bushes as latrines. Some dig latrines but never use them. The same applies to Karamoja, no big deal. I went to one home with a beautiful latrine but when I went to use it, the padlock had rusted meaning it was there but never used; the key-hole was blocked completely; they had to break the padlock but by then the wasps that had colonized the room were disturbed, so when the door opened, we had to run away and I forgot about using the latrine until I reached Moroto Town.
From the professional point of view, we should not judge other cultures using our cultural lenses; every cultural group is right in its ways and a person from a different culture needs to understand why certain practices take place in other cultures, there is usually a good cultural reason.
It is not the hate of hard labour involved in digging pit-latrines or graves that force people to seek self-exile; rather the taboos associated or reasons undisclosed with the practice. Some cite barrenness if women use latrines. Even men squatting to aim the holes will have their male organs pointing at the holes sucking “bad air”, the same organ used for producing so why risk not bearing children they reason?
The other often undisclosed reason is that feces and decomposing bodies are good manure producing materials- scattered allover the bushes around provide natural fertilizers- compost manure – bumper harvest as a result.
A well to do family from western Uganda invited the father to a Kampala posh home. The old man wanted to use the washroom; he was shown a clean room beside where he sleeps, close to the kitchen. The old man protested bitter saying, ” You people are bastards; you cook and eat here, you sleep here and you also defecate in the house, no way, take me to defecate outside” they compromised with mzee so they took him to a neighbours to use a pit-latrine that was outside the man house. Cultural beliefs are very strong and it takes much education and patience to change some of the beliefs, some persist.