JUBA — South Sudan’s Presidential Press Secretary Ateny Wek Ateny has said in a statement that he wasn’t sexually objectifying women when he spoke at a wedding ceremony at Freedom Hall in February this year.
A short clip of him speaking during the February function went viral on social media. The 36-second video was a tiny fraction of a large part in which Ateny was speaking to the groom against South Sudanese culture of polygamy and told the groom not to be like him who entertain polygamy.
The short clip sparked outrage among social media users especially women who took it as a sexual attack on them.
In a statement on Friday, Ateny said he wasn’t intending to attack women and accused unnamed individuals of intentionally distorting his remarks as only a small part of the over 20-long video was extracted to fit ill intentions.
“As you might have noticed, the video was edited to fit the ill-intention of those behind its circulation. While the video presents my statements, they were unfortunately taken out of context. I made the statement in an attempt to advise the couple, as I have often done in those occasions,” he said in the statement seen by Sudans Post.
“I was speaking as a Dinka culturalist, in which case I cautioned the groom to commit to a single woman, as opposed to what the Dinka culture promotes. Via way of comedy, I told the groom not to be like me and others who are pro-polygamy. My critics then used the western lens to interpret this advice as sexually objectifying women,” he added.
“This couldn’t be farther from truth; I have a great deal of respect for women. In addition to wives I dearly love, I have daughters who are adult; I treat them with immense respect. The Ajak Deng Chiengkou’s show on SBS Dinka on July 14, 2021, might have shown that I was outraged, as I felt bullied. I was insulted, even personally to the point of involving my innocent family members. As a result, my response then could have been clouded.
“Notwithstanding the above scenario, I want to make a few clarifications regarding why I wasn’t intending to sexually objectify women.
“First, I spoke Jieng (Dinka) at the event. Its translation into English terribly distorted my message. Second, my speech lasted more than twenty minutes. However, the person/persons who shared the video on social media provided only 36 seconds of it. Moreover, I spoke in February 2021, and what surprises me most is why it took them this long to make the video public.
“The audience understood the cultural context in which I was using the Jieng folklore. Third, the campaign against my person isn’t new; it is politically motivated, which is why my family pictures are used as evidence of my disrespect against women. Shared are pictures I took with my wives, or women who visited the office of the president on official business as evidence of my inappropriate actions.
“It has been widely alleged that women who seek an appointment with H.E the President have to come through me. This is false. Primarily, I am not responsible for the President’s programs. The Executive Director and the Chief of the State Protocol are. My own official meetings/programs as a spokesperson of the President go through the ED.
“Finally, my Department does not employ anyone. Instead, this is the role of the Chief Administrator. Therefore, what is being portrayed on the social media is inaccurate, even as it tarnishes the national image and that of my person.
“In short, I do not disrespect or abuse women. I have no role in the President’s appointments that are not connected to my department, nor does my department participate in employment decisions at the Presidency. Lastly, I want to appeal to everyone, both women/girls and men/boys, who felt inadvertently hurt by my remarks to find a place in their hearts and pardon me, as I wasn’t intending to demean women in anyway.
“As a public figure, I understand the lines between my official duties and social roles are blurred. As such, I am sorry that my statements at a social function hurt you, albeit being portrayed out of context.”