RATIFY! Although Uganda ratified the Convention on
Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1985, it is
yet to ratify its Optional Protocol and has not ratified the Protocol to the
African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa
RESPECT! The Coalition of the Campaign is particularly
concerned about the following continued violations of women’s human rights in
Uganda: persistent discriminatory laws and customs; physical violence; unequal
access to property; and limited access to justice.
Some positive developments…
The Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges the recent adoption of several
laws and policies aimed at improving respect for women’s rights,
• The adoption of the Female Genital Mutilation Act in December 2009, which
criminalises female circumcision. The Act is expected to come into force in
• The adoption of the Domestic Violence Act in November 2009, criminalizing
• The adoption of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act in 2008, which
prescribes penalties from 15-years to life imprisonment.
• The launch by the government in November 2009 of a Road Map aimed at
reducing maternal mortality, however, this campaign is silent on unsafe
DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE PERSIST
In Uganda statutory law is applied alongside customary and religious laws.
While the Constitution of 1995 provides for equal rights between men and women
(article33) and holds laws and customs that violate the constitutional
guarantees on equality to be void (Article 33(6)); discriminatory statutory,
customary and religious laws remain in force.
Discriminatory statutory laws include:
Property: According to the Succession Act, property is apportioned among the
deceased’s family members according to fixed proportions and widows stand to
inherit 15%. If there is more than one wife, the property is shared. Under
Section 27 of the Succession Act, girls cannot inherit their father’s property.
FIDA-U and other women’s rights organisations successfully petitioned the
Constitutional Court to declare this provision unconstitutional, however, the
Attorney General has yet to reform the Succession Act to address this
Most areas of family law are currently regulated by discriminatory customary
and religious laws, for example:
Marriage and divorce: Although under statutory law, the minimum legal age of
marriage is 18 years for both men and women, according to customary law
marriages are frequently arranged for minors, especially in rural areas. In
2004, it was estimated that 32% of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were
married, divorced or widowed. Polygamy is authorised under customary and
Islamic law and women in polygamous relationships have no protection in the
event of dissolution of the union. In some ethnic groups, custom also provides
for men to “inherit” the widows of their deceased brothers (levirat).
Custody of children: Although the Status of Children Act 1996 provides that
both parents are responsible for supporting children, under customary law men
have sole parental authority. A draft marriage and divorce law was presented to
Parliament at the end of 2009. The draft law grants women the right to divorce
spouses for cruelty, the right to choose their spouse and prohibits the
practice of levirat. It also provides for equal division of property and
finances in the event of divorce. However, the draft does not prohibit polygamy
nor does it prohibit the “bride price” but only provides for it to be
non-refundable. The proposed law would govern Christian, Hindu, and traditional
marriages but not Muslim marriages. Thus many women in Uganda - where an
estimated 12% of the population are Muslims - would be excluded from its
application. Property: According to customary law, women do not have the right
to own or inherit property.
Although several laws have recently been enacted to improve the situation of
women, their implementation is hindered by traditions and deeply entrenched
patriarchal attitudes, especially in rural areas. Years of armed conflict in
the northern parts of the country have also contributed to massive violations
of women’s human rights.
There is widespread violence against women in Uganda and perpetrators
benefit from generalised impunity, in part due to widespread social attitudes
condoning such violence. Law enforcement officials rarely intervene in cases of
domestic violence and wife beating is viewed as a husband’s prerogative. Rape
is a serious problem in Uganda. Indeed, most rape cases are unreported and most
recorded complaints are not investigated. In 2008, of the 477 rapes that police
recorded, 115 were taken to court; there were no convictions. Rape was widely
used as a weapon of war during the civil war since 1986. An undetermined number
of women and girls were victims of abduction, rape and sexual slavery,
perpetrated by rebel forces and the Ugandan People’s Defense Force (UPDF).
Female genital mutilation (FGM) remains a common practice within the Sabiny
Tribe, in the Kapchorwa district in the East and the Pokot ethnic group along
the northeastern border.
Obstacles to access to education
Girls and boys have equal access to education in law, and they are
represented almost equally in lower grades; however, the proportion of girls in
higher school grades remains low, partly due to the fact that families
traditionally favor boys when financially supporting their education. Parents’
inability to afford schooling correlates highly with the occurrence of child
labor in rural areas. According to estimates in 2007, only 66 percent of
females are literate compared with 82 percent of males. The drop-out rate of
girls is higher due to other factors e.g. access to sanitary facilities,
Obstacles to access to property
Although there are no laws preventing women from owning land in Uganda, the
custom of male inheritance has resulted in the vast majority of women being
excluded from land ownership. Whilst women do most of the agricultural work, it
is estimated that they own only 7 percent of agricultural land. To counter this
trend and curb the widespread dispossession of wives and widows, activists have
campaigned for reforms to Uganda’s property laws to provide for spouses to be
deemed co-owners of “family land,” ie. Land on which the married couple lives
and depends. __ Obstacles to access to justice__ Ugandan women do not have
adequate access to justice to claim, in particular as a result of inadequate
information on their rights and laws protecting them, social pressure, cost of
procedure and lack of training of law enforcement personnel trained on women’s
THE COALITION OF THE CAMPAIGN CALLS ON THE AUTHORITIES OF UGANDA
• Reform or abolish all discriminatory laws, in conformity with CEDAW.
• Take all necessary measures to enforce constitutional provisions rendering
void discriminatory laws and customs, including implementation of campaigns to
raise awareness of community and religious leaders on women’s rights.
• Ensure the full implementation of the Domestic Violence Act 2009 and the
Female Genital Mutilation Act 2009, including by ensuring that victims of
violence have access to immediate means of redress and protection and that
perpetrators are prosecuted and punished; implementing training for law
enforcement personnel, the judiciary and health workers; implementing public
awareness campaigns and adopting a zero tolerance policy on all forms of
violence against women.
• Eliminate all forms of discrimination with respect to the ownership,
co-sharing and inheritance of land.
• Increase women’s access to education, including by expanding free
education and addressing socio-economic and cultural factors that impede access
• Take all necessary measures to ensure women’s access to justice, including
by ensuring that women are aware of their rights and of mechanisms of access to
justice; and providing access to free legal representation.
• Strengthen efforts to address stereotypical attitudes about the roles and
responsibilities of women and men, including educational measures,
awareness-raising and public education campaigns directed at women and men.
• Include women, from all ethnic groups, in national reconciliation and
peace building initiatives, in accordance with UN Resolutions 1325 and 1820,
and ensure that such initiatives include measures of accountability, redress
and rehabilitation for women and girls who have been victims of violations.
• Ratify the Maputo Protocol and the Optional Protocol to CEDAW.
• Implement all recommendations issued by the CEDAW Committee, in August
• Focal Points: FHRI, FIDA-U
• Recommendations of the CEDAW Committee, August 2002
• AFROL, Gender profile, www.afrol.com
• Inter Parliamentary Union, www.ipu.org
• Wikigender, www.wikigender.org
THE CAMPAIGN FOCAL POINTS IN UGANDA
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) FHRI is an
independent, non-partisan human rights NGO established in 1991. FHRIconducts
human rights monitoring, promotes access to justice for poor and vulnerable
groups and raises awareness. FHRI’s main activities on women’s rights include:
promoting access to justice; providing pro-bono legal assistance to women
victims of violations; and raising awareness on domestic violence and women’s
Association of Women Lawyers in Uganda (FIDA-U) FIDA-U is
an independent, non-partisan, non-profit making civil society organization,
composed of Ugandan women lawyers, which aims to achieve observance of the law,
human rights and gender equality. www.fidauganda.org
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