Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, which is punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty. The penal code defines rape as “unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or a girl.” Men accused of raping men are tried under section 145(a) of the penal code that prohibits “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.” The law also criminalizes domestic violence and provides up to two years’ imprisonment for conviction.
Rape remained a serious problem throughout the country, and the government did not consistently enforce the law. Although the government arrested, prosecuted, and convicted persons for rape, the crime was seriously underreported, and authorities did not investigate most cases. Police lacked the criminal forensic capacity to collect evidence, which hampered prosecution and conviction. The UPF crime report through June listed 10,163 reported sexual offenses, of which 787 were rapes, 8,954 defilements, 308 indecent assaults, 56 incest, and 58 “unnatural offenses.”
According to the 2011 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), the most recent government report on maternal mortality, at least 27 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49 experienced some form of domestic violence during the year prior to the survey. The same survey showed at least 56 percent of married women reported having experienced some form of domestic violence during their marital life. According to a representative from the UPF’s child and family protection unit, victims often did not report domestic violence because society generally did not consider it a crime and police officers often did not consider it a serious offense.
Local NGOs operated hotlines in 11 districts, including Kampala, Mukono, and Jinja. The government worked with local and international NGOs and religious institutions like the Roman Catholic Church to strengthen understanding of domestic violence as a human rights abuse. A few NGOs ran domestic violence shelters, including Action Aid, Mifumi, and Uganda Women’s Network. Action Aid reported its shelters received between three and 10 domestic violence survivors daily.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law and constitution prohibit FGM/C of women and girls and establish a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment for convicted perpetrators--or life imprisonment if the victim dies during the act of FGM/C. The government, women’s groups, and international organizations combated the practice through education and livelihood skills training. These programs, which received some support from local leaders, emphasized close cooperation with traditional authority figures and peer counseling. Nevertheless, the Sabiny ethnic group in rural Kapchorwa District and the Pokot ethnic group along the northeastern border with Kenya continued the practice; the Sabiny practiced types I and II, and the Pokot practiced type III.
On September 14, media reported a 14-year old girl died giving birth due to FGM/C-related complications.
Authorities arrested more than 20 persons on FGM/C charges, including parents complicit in the practice. In February a court in Kapchorwa convicted four women of performing and abetting FGM/C and sentenced each of them to four years’ imprisonment. A month earlier in Kapchorwa, authorities arrested eight persons on FGM/C charges and courts convicted six of the eight. Local citizens attacked a man suspected of reporting the eight to authorities and accused critics of FGM/C of destroying their culture.
A UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) study released in January reported 86 FGM/C cases from January to October 2014, compared with 54 cases during the same period in 2013. The joint UN-government program on FGM/C estimated 95 percent of Pokot girls and women and 50 percent of Sabiny girls and women were subjected to FGM/C.
While traveling through Bukwo District on August 24, the president ordered the regional police commander of Kapchorwa to release elderly women arrested for carrying out FGM/C. The president stated fighting FGM/C was a sensitive issue and urged the Sabiny to stop the practice.
On September 19, the Anglican Church in Kapchorwa and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) organized a marathon to promote awareness among local communities of the importance of ending FGM/C. The head of the Anglican Church in Uganda, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, urged communities to end FGM/C, noting the practice dehumanized women and girls and inflicted permanent injuries that endangered women and their babies during childbirth. The UNFPA has collaborated with local churches in the region to fight FGM/C.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Police recorded five child ritual killings through June. In February the MGLSD drafted a National Action Plan to end child sacrifice and child mutilation. The plan was developed with the support of UNICEF, Makerere University, World Vision, Plan Uganda, and ANPPCAN Uganda. In 2014 the UHRC reported boys more likely to be victims of ritual sacrifice than girls, especially before age six.
On September 30, police in Lwengo arrested Fred Kamuntu, Joyce Kamuntu, and Rogers Mutesasira for the ritual killing of 13-year-old Kennedy Kayibanda, in Mayira village. Police detained the suspects at Mbirizi police station but dropped charges following an investigation.
Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment and provides for penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment, but authorities did not effectively enforce the law. Sexual harassment was a serious and widespread problem in homes, schools, universities, and workplaces. In 2013 local NGO Uganda Human Rights Defenders Association reported 90 percent of women had faced sexual harassment at work and that their prospective male employers routinely asked female job seekers for sex. The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development (MGLSD) reported that fears of retaliation made many victims unwilling to report harassment.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, manage their reproductive health, and have access to the information and means to do so, free from coercion, discrimination, or violence; however, family planning information and assistance were difficult to access, particularly in rural areas, where there were few health clinics. According to the 2011 Uganda DHS, one in three married women wanted to delay childbirth or space their children but could not access family planning aids. Of women and girls between ages 15 and 49, 18 percent used a modern method of contraception. Women also faced challenges of religious restrictions imposed by their faiths.
Women who attempted to use family planning without their husbands’ knowledge or approval risked domestic violence or eviction from their homes. For example, on November 17, a man in Bulambuli District beat his wife to death after learning that she had an intrauterine device implanted without his knowledge. Police continued to investigate the case at year’s end.
Abortion is illegal, and approximately 1,200 women died annually from unsafe abortions. On June 4, the Ministry of Health launched standards and guidelines on reducing morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortions, including increased access to family planning services and legal post-abortion care and services. Fear of arrest often made health-care professionals unwilling to attend to women who had undergone abortion.
The 2011 Uganda DHS reported a maternal mortality rate of 438 deaths per 100,000 live births. Skilled healthcare personnel attended 42 percent of births. Health officials attributed the high maternal mortality rate to medical complications and limited capacity of health-care facilities to manage complications.
On May 13, the High Court ruled in favor of the family of a woman who died in 2011 due to obstructed labor after the hospital staff left her unattended for eight hours. The court found the human and maternal rights of the deceased were violated and ordered the Nakaseke District Local Administration, which had oversight of the hospital, to pay 35 million shillings ($9,589) in compensation to the family.
Discrimination: The law provides women with the same legal status and rights as men. Discrimination against women, however, was widespread, especially in rural areas. Many customary laws discriminate against women in adoption, marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Under local customary law in many areas, women may not own or inherit property or retain custody of their children. Traditional divorce law in many areas requires women to meet stricter evidentiary standards than men to prove adultery. Polygyny is legal under both customary and Islamic law. In some ethnic groups, men may “inherit” the widows of their deceased brothers.
In June Transparency International Uganda released the report “Women, Land and Corruption,” which found women disadvantaged in accessing and acquiring land due to corruption in the Ministry of Lands. The report also found that discrimination against women restricted their freedom to participate in economic production.
Women experienced discrimination in access to employment, credit, and income, and were underrepresented in business ownership and senior or managerial positions (see section 7.d.). According to the International Labor Organization’s (ILO’s) 2015 report on “Women in Business and Management,” women held 20 percent of management positions. The World Bank 2014 Enterprise Survey indicated 15 percent of firms were headed by women.
The law provides that “every employer shall pay males and females equal remuneration for work of equal value.” In 2013 the National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU) reported, however, that women received much lower wages than men for the same work.
On August 6, the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the practice of refunding the bride price after the breakdown of a customary marriage. Chief Justice Bart Katureebe wrote, “the practice of refunding bride price suggests that women are held on loan and can be returned and money recovered.” The court, however, rejected the argument that bride price itself was unconstitutional. Mifumi, a women’s rights organization that brought the case to court, stated bride price encouraged domestic violence and led men to believe they had paid for their wives’ sexual and reproductive capacity.