Court Gives MOE Two Years to Develop Comprehensive Sexuality Education Policy

The development of a Comprehensive Sexuality Education Policy has been as area of contention between civil society, education officials and lawmakers with the latter saying the policy would expose children to homosexuality and masturbation. Now court has ordered the MOE to work with all relevant stakeholders to make sure the country has a policy in two years

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The Ministry of Education and Sports has been ordered to set up a Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) policy within two years, according to a High Court judgement.

The judgement comes more than two years after MOE developed a sexuality education framework that was opposed by religious leaders. Some of the areas of contention was the proposed young age of three years as the start of the education and the decision to give teachers the responsibility to implement the work.

Earlier in 2016, Parliament directed the ban of teaching and training teachers on CSE to save the morality of Uganda children which was at risk.  According to Parliament, the CSE would expose children to age inappropriate materials like books that would be accessible in schools. This decision was backed by a circular issued by the Ministry of Labour, Gender and Social Development.

Now, high court judge, Lady Justice Lydia Mugambe has directed that a policy be made to guide the teaching and implementation of the policy.

In her judgement, Mugambe said that it is the duty of the state to provide adolescents with accurate information on how to protect their health and development.

" The right to sexuality education had been confirmed in the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child which provides that  adolescents have the right to access adequate information essential for their health and development and for their ability to participate meaningfully in society," she said.

During the case, ministry of education officials swore affidavits stating that government recognised sexuality education but not comprehensive sexuality education. According to Ismael Mulindwa who was the acting commissioner in charge of private schools then, some of the content taught as part of CSE raised concerns of liberations of sex among children. He said the ministry banned the teaching of CSE because it would lead to promotion of illicit sexual conduct such as homosexuality and masturbation in schools.

Basing her adjustment on several international conventions such as the UNCRC, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities  and the 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development ,and the Constitution of Uganda, Justice Mugambe noted that the continued delay of implementing the frame work violates the country's obligations to conventions it ratified.

" Uganda is party to the above international conventions which unequivocally require government to enact a policy that comprehensively provides for sexuality education. The inclusion or exclusion of the term comprehensive is a simple matter of form that should never derail the substance of this process. Based on the above, I find no justification and the inordinate delay or omission of over ten years to develop a comprehensive sexuality education policy in Uganda is a violation of Uganda's obligations under international law," she said.

The judge also ordered MOE officials to identify and work with relevant stakeholders while coming up with the policy to address all issues of contention. The ministry is supposed to the progress of making the policy to the court registrar every six months.

Esther Dhafa, a lawyer and programme officer working with the Center for Health,Human Rights and Development, one of the complaints of the case says the judge's judgement is a long waited one. She says the ban on CSE was a violation to the right of education and information of learners.

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Officials from the education ministry that URN spoke to said they are willing to go sit with all stakeholders and come up with a policy that reflects everyone's views.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation( UNESCO) in its International Guidance on Sexuality Education  defines CSE as a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about cognitive, emotional, physicals and social aspects of sexuality.

According to the guidance, its main aim is to  equip children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes a d values that will empower them to: realize the health, dignity and well being. It also aims at helping them develop respectful social and sexual relationships and puts emphasis on teaching learners how to consider how their choices affect their own well being and that of others.