The article opens up with a young girl – who goes by the pseudonym of Patricia – who was sold by her uncle to her teacher who would eventually rape her continuously before abandoning her at the age of 11. Patricia thought her luck had changed for the better when “police officers from a local station told her there was a man nearby who helped survivors of sexual abuse like her.” Patricia saw a “big, fat, old muzungu [*foreigner, particularly a white person]” by the name of Bery that she thought she could trust.
Bernhard (“Bery”) Glaser is a German national who founded Bery’s Place with his wife in 2006. The establishment serves as a rehab center or a shelter of sorts for young girls who were victims of sexual violence and other forms of abuse, as well as girls who had been “trafficked, abandoned, or rejected by their legal guardians”. CNN interviewed five women in their late teens and early twenties, including Patricia, who all allege that Bery sexually assaulted them and when they didn’t comply with his advances, he would threaten to kick them out into the streets, thus hindering these girls who had already suffered from different forms of trauma, abuse, and abandonment from speaking out.
“𝐴 𝑙𝑎𝑐𝑘 𝑜𝑓 𝑔𝑜𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑛𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡 𝑜𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡 𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑏𝑖𝑛𝑒𝑑 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑎𝑛 𝑜𝑝𝑒𝑛-𝑑𝑜𝑜𝑟 𝑝𝑜𝑙𝑖𝑐𝑦 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑒𝑖𝑔𝑛 𝑖𝑛𝑣𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑣𝑜𝑙𝑢𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑒𝑟𝑠 ℎ𝑎𝑠 𝑙𝑒𝑓𝑡 𝑔𝑖𝑟𝑙𝑠 𝑙𝑖𝑘𝑒 𝑃𝑎𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑐𝑖𝑎 𝑣𝑢𝑙𝑛𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑏𝑙𝑒 𝑡𝑜 𝑎𝑏𝑢𝑠𝑒.”
“𝑆𝑢𝑟𝑣𝑖𝑣𝑜𝑟𝑠 𝑤ℎ𝑜 𝑠𝑝𝑜𝑘𝑒 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝐶𝑁𝑁 𝑠𝑎𝑖𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑡 𝑜𝑓 𝑖𝑛𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑏𝑖𝑙𝑖𝑡𝑦 — 𝑏𝑒𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑙𝑒𝑓𝑡 ℎ𝑜𝑚𝑒𝑙𝑒𝑠𝑠, 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑡 𝑚𝑜𝑛𝑒𝑦 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑓𝑜𝑜𝑑 𝑜𝑟 𝑠𝑐ℎ𝑜𝑜𝑙 𝑓𝑒𝑒𝑠 — 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝑤ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑘𝑒𝑝𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑚 𝑞𝑢𝑖𝑒𝑡 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑠𝑜 𝑙𝑜𝑛𝑔 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑛 𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑢𝑙𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑖𝑛 𝑠𝑜𝑚𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑚 𝑑𝑒𝑓𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝐺𝑙𝑎𝑠𝑒𝑟 𝑤ℎ𝑒𝑛 ℎ𝑒 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝑓𝑖𝑟𝑠𝑡 𝑎𝑟𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑖𝑛 2013.”
The “good” news is that Bery was detained last February after he turned himself in. He was charged with 19 counts of human trafficking, one count of operating an unauthorized children’s home, among other charges. The saddest part about this whole thing is that Bery’s Place is just one of the hundreds of homes said to be for vulnerable children that are operating illegally in Uganda. The article makes a point that I strongly agree with when they state that “a lack of government oversight combined with an open-door policy for foreign investors and volunteers has left girls like Patricia vulnerable to abuse.” Bery took advantage of the Ugandan political system by bribing local officials and of the young girls that he claimed to be saving by further perpetuating abuse. “When you see a white person here you think they’re coming with the biggest opportunities, so people like Bery Glaser are able to use their privilege to oppress and exploit our people,” says Olivia Alaso, co-founder of No White Saviors, which has helped provide safe accommodation and psychosocial support for girls who lived at Bery’s Place. “The government should be doing thorough and proper checks on their backgrounds at home [before granting visas], and also the work these people are doing in our communities.”
I shared this article because as global/ international affairs students and professionals, in whatever field we may find ourselves in the future or where we are currently working, we need to be mindful of our role in the world. We shouldn’t take advantage of the already disadvantaged, and we should pay attention to the warning signs, and if we ever get the chance to speak up on the behalf of others, we should. Children shouldn’t have to suffer at the hands of sick-minded adults who disguise their evil intentions. There is a lot to be done on the part of the governments of low-income countries and on those from the global North who want to take advantage of these broken, poorly constructed, or developing systems. It causes well-meaning organizations to lose their credibility, and more importantly, human lives should not be disregarded in that way.
McCool, Alice. (13 February 2020). “They were sent to a shelter for safety. Instead, these women say they were sexually abused.” https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/13/africa/uganda-bery-glaser-asequals-intl/index.html.