The groups says instead of criminalizing sex work, specific regulatory frameworks should be put in place to protect sex workers and grant them the same rights as any other laborer.
Mama wa Afrika, a women rights activist group has joined the chorus of human rights activists urging for a
recall of the just passed sexual offenses Bill 2019.
While some women had hailed
Parliament for passing the Bill , Akina Mama wa Afrika says in the current form, the Bill violates principles of equality and non-discrimination that are
core to the advancement of human rights for all in Uganda.
group in statement urges Parliament to make extensive consultations with all
members of the community to ensure that diverse groups are protected by the
if a law negates the needs and rights of one group in society, it is by that
very nature discriminatory. Uganda as a signatory to the different international
and regional human rights instruments, must reflect these promises and
obligations in domestic law” reads part of the statement
While Akina Mama wa Afrika welcomes specific
clauses that speak to indecent assault, sextortion, child rape, sex tourism and
trafficking, it says laws passed in Uganda should be in tandem with regional
and international human rights instruments which the country is signatory to.
“ In analyzing the Sexual Offences
Bill as it currently is, it is essential that we factor in the lived realities
and human rights concerns of all Ugandans, regardless of gender and sexual
orientation, class, and other intersecting identities. In that regard
therefore, the Bill as passed by Parliament violates principles of equality and
non-discrimination that are core to the advancement of human rights for all in
Uganda” says Akina Mama wa Afrika
The Sexual Offenses Bill was
drafted in 2000 and tabled as a Private Member’s Bill by the outgoing Kumi
Woman MP, Monica Amoding.
It had been envisioned as an instrument that
would consolidate laws relating to sexual offences as well as address some of
the gaps in existing legal frameworks regarding to sexual violations.
Akina Mama wa Afrika says the Bill
has undergone significant amendments since 2000 and that some of the amendments
have altered its very essence and further created room for the extension of
criminalization of different groups of women and sexual minorities in
Monica Amoding was on Thursday
quoted by the Monitor Newspaper says she was not entirely satisfied with
the Bill as passed.
“Because we lost some of the
Clauses (1 and 36) we wanted. But we have taken what has been given and for
those that we didn’t get, advocacy continues. Maybe in the future, we shall get
what we want.” Reads part of the interview
The Bill awaits President Museveni's assent before it becomes law. The President can either assent to it as it is or refer it to Parliament for reconsideration. Akina Mama wa Afrika Key Concerns:
- The Bill provides a vague definition for what
constitutes consent to sexual acts.
The Bill fails to distinguish
between consent by will and consent by coercion. The pervasive nature of sexual
abuse, manifesting in private and public spaces necessitates that we take a
firmer approach to ending this violence.
Appreciating that sexual violence,
particularly in intimate spaces also occurs in the background of gendered power
dynamics, the recommendation to withdraw Clause 36 on withdrawal of consent is
a blowback to women’s rights organizing to end sexual violence against women.
As such, re-situating consent as mandatory is essential.
Consent should then be
understood as continuous. Even in the context of African societies, it is
crucial that we view spouses and partners as autonomous beings who are able to
decide when and what happens to their bodies. By removing the provisions
that would have clarified that consent may be withdrawn at any time before or
during the performance of the sexual act, the Bill strips individuals the right
to protect themselves from undisclosed facts by their sexual partner(s)
including unwillingness to use protection.
- The Bill further criminalizes same sex relations.
The Sexual Offences Bill is a
backdoor for reintroduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Act that was disallowed
in 2013. It goes against the constitution of the Republic of Uganda that
provides for equality and non-discrimination to all Ugandans.
This Bill does
not only worsen the already hostile environment towards LGBTQI persons, it also
denies them their right to health and increases stigma.
The unjust recommendations and
clauses in the Bill further criminalize consensual same sex acts and create
avenues for further infringement on the rights of persons targeted under the
guise of enforcing the law. Following the outlawing of the same sex relations
in Uganda under the Anti-Homosexuality Act, and provisions in the Penal Code
Act, thousands of Ugandans were reported to have sought refuge in
other countries to protect themselves from persecution
sexual orientation and identity.
The introduction of extraterritorial
jurisdiction further targeting consenting adults involved in same sex relation,
even outside of Uganda’s territories is yet another violation of International
Human rights law. The principles of non-refoulement guarantee that no one
should be returned to a country where they would face torture, cruel, inhuman,
and degrading treatment or punishment and other irreparable harm.
- The criminalization of sex-work.
We affirm that sex work, is work.
Criminalizing sex work and related activities that directly or indirectly deny
sex workers the very rights guaranteed under international and domestic law is
a manifestation of archaic double and moral standards. The principle of bodily
autonomy foregrounds the urgent demand to decriminalize sex work. The legal and
economic barriers that push women and other persons into the sex industry should
be central to understanding why all involved should be protected and
safeguarded against further discrimination.
Instead of criminalizing sex work,
specific regulatory frameworks should be put in place to protect sex workers
and grant them the same rights as any other laborer. Criminalizing sex work
only contributes to a slew of sexual reproductive health challenges for sex
- The Bill further criminalizes victims of Non-Consensual
Non-consensual image distribution,
commonly referred to as “revenge porn”, facilitated by the evolving nature of
the internet is on the rise in Uganda. As it stands now, victims of this abuse
in Uganda, who are disproportionately women, continue to be punished for
actions of perpetrators, often done without their consent. “This focus on the
subjects of abuse adds another layer of violations: on top of the distribution
of images, which is a total violation of privacy, it lays down a public trail
for which the subjects are pre-judged as guilty – a further injustice to women
who are already victimized.”
The Bill continues the existing tradition in
Uganda of punishing women based on skewed understandings of morality. The Bill
puts victims of non-consensual image distribution at further risk of arrest,
with a crackdown on the “circulation of pornographic” material.
- The Introduction of a Clause on False Allegations
The reality is that sexual violence
crimes continue to go unreported, and even when they are, unpunished. The
Uganda Police Crime Reports continue to speak to this. There is also no
scientific or anecdotal evidence to back up claims that false allegations in
relation to sexual violence are common or warrant public concern. If anything,
the opposite is true as many victims of sexual violence are unable to seek
justice because of deeply rooted systemic inequalities that trivialize abuse,
stigmatize victims, and protect perpetrators.
The emphasis of any just law must
therefore be on ending this. The question of perjury and false allegations are
already covered in the Penal Code Act and as such, the re-introduction of this
clause only will only further intimidate victims of sexual violence.
- Continued criminalization of people living with
The Bill continues to stigmatize
people living with HIV in Uganda, by providing that where the sexual offender
is infected with HIV or suffering from AIDS, it shall be deemed to be
aggravated and the person so convicted is liable to suffer death. The inclusion
of HIV status as an aggravating factor is rooted in stigma against HIV positive
persons. This provision further criminalizes people living with HIV and is in
further contradiction with Uganda’s various commitments to provision for
equality before the law for all persons. Recommendation and Conclusion
As such, we continue to appeal to
legislators, the public and the President to reject the Bill as is and instruct
parliament to present a revised Bill that takes into account the full spectrum
of human rights protection in addressing sexual violence.
We implore the parliament of Uganda
to make extensive consultations with all members of the community to ensure
that diverse groups are protected by the Bill because if a law negates the
needs and rights of one group in society, it is by that very nature discriminatory.
ganda as a signatory to the different international and regional human rights
instruments, must reflect these promises and obligations in domestic
We therefore stand in solidarity
with all Ugandan women, in all their diversities, LGBTQI persons and all those
criminalized and affected by the Sexual Offenses Bill.