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Enforcement of Abortion Laws Weak-Report

The findings show that a total of 182 arrests were carried out in Kampala and Kitgum over the study period from 2011 to 2015. 38 cases were sanctioned by the office of the Director of Public Prosecution and only nine cases were prosecuted during this time.

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The increase in illegal abortions in the country has been blamed on the failure to enforce abortion laws. 

This was revealed during the release of findings of a study carried out by the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAP). The findings that were entitled ‘Enforcement of Criminal Abortion Laws in Uganda', show that few arrests and prosecutions concerning abortions take place in Uganda.

According to Article 22(2) of the Constitution, no person has the right to terminate the life of an unborn child except as may be authorised by law.

The study which was both qualitative and quantitative in nature was carried out in Kampala and Kitgum district. It looked at the trends of reported abortion cases and the number of convictions.

Suzan Baluka, the legal officer HRAP, says that their findings show that even with the existence of abortion laws, abortion still takes place.

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The findings show that a total of 182 arrests were carried out in Kampala and Kitgum over the study period from 2011 to 2015. 38 cases were sanctioned by the office of the Director of Public Prosecution and only nine cases were prosecuted during this time.

According to Baluka, while people are willing to report cases of suspected abortion to law enforcement officers, few arrests are ever effected.

“We saw that a total of 36 cases of abortion were reported in 2016 in Kampala but only 21 arrested were carried out. In Kitgum, the numbers stood at 21 and 18 for reported cases and arrests made respectively.”

The study shows that law enforcement officers in districts like Kitgum are more vigilant because it is sparsely populated compared to Kampala.

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The trends of arrest made in relation to abortion was attributed to the bribes given to medical workers or perpetrators of abortion.

“People know that abortion is illegal and are willing to pay money to avoid the shame that comes with court proceedings. So they pay money to make sure that what they do never comes to be known,” Baluka explains.

National guidelines in abortion permit abortion in cases where; there is evidence that the foetus developed abnormally, a pregnancy is as a result of rape or incest and if women are HIV positive.

Dr Charles Kiggundu, a Gynaecologist Mulago Hospital says that it is hard to reprimand an act that is done underground due to legal implications associated with it. 

“Abortions take place underground. Even doctors who carry them out legally are scared of revealing that they do. So, in most cases, everyone is quiet about it. If people do no report such cases, the law cannot be effective.” Kiggundu says.