Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, which is punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty; the law does not address spousal rape. The penal code defines rape as “unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or a girl without her consent.” 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 effectively enforce the law. Although the government arrested, prosecuted, and convicted persons for rape, the crime was seriously underreported, and police did not investigate most cases. The Center for Domestic Violence Protection (CEDOVIP) reported security officers often responded to women’s claims of sexual violence with skepticism. Police lacked the criminal forensic capacity to collect evidence, which hampered prosecution and conviction. Although the law mandates police training on gender-based violence, training was often ad hoc and poorly attended, according to CEDOVIP.
The UPF crime report through June 2015, the most recent available, noted 10,163 reported sexual offenses, of which 787 were rapes, 8,954 statutory rapes, 308 indecent assaults, 56 incest, and 58 “unnatural offenses.” Gulu District police told the media on April 1 they registered an average of 60 cases of statutory rape a month, with most cases involving girls younger than 14. According to the Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA), few cases involving rape and statutory rape were brought to trial and completed, in part due to societal factors. Parents, husbands, local leaders, religious leaders, police, prosecutors, and sometimes courts pressured victims to settle cases out of court. According to FIDA, these settlements often left perpetrators unpunished and discouraged other victims from seeking redress.
According to the 2011 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), which the government conducted every five years, at least 27 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 experienced some form of domestic violence in 2010. The same survey found at least 56 percent of married women reported some form of domestic violence. 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.
In 2015 local NGOs operated hotlines in 11 of the country’s 112 districts. The government worked with local and international NGOs and religious institutions, including the Roman Catholic Church, to increase 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. CEDOVIP operated a fund to provide victims of gender-based violence with emergency medical treatment, legal aid, transportation to police stations, and other services.
On August 17, the judiciary reported the introduction of audio/video link technology into the court system to enable vulnerable witnesses, especially children and victims of sexual assault, to testify without being in the same room as their alleged attacker. FIDA reported it was working with the judiciary to expedite gender-based violence cases through the court system by organizing special court sessions for victims.
On August 17, the cabinet passed a policy that requires the government to allocate funds to implement laws against gender-based violence, including the Domestic Violence Act of 2010, Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2010, and the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2009. On November 25, the minister of gender, labor, and social development launched a five-year national action plan to eliminate gender-based violence, promote gender equality, and remove barriers to the advancement of women.
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. UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) statistics updated in February showed 1 percent of women below the age of 50 had been subjected to FGM/C. The government, women’s groups, and international organizations combated the practice through education and livelihood skills training. These programs, which received support from some local leaders, emphasized close cooperation with traditional authority figures and peer counseling. Nevertheless, the Sabiny and Pokot ethnic groups in the east along the Kenyan border continued the practice; the Sabiny practiced types I and II, and the Pokot practiced type III.
Local NGOs, including Reproductive Education and Community Health and the Kapchorwa Civil Organizations Alliance, held drama and theatrical plays in their communities to teach the legal provisions, penalties, and dangers associated with FGM/C. In December 2015, during the Sabiny’s cultural day celebrations in Bukwo District, a delegation of Sabiny leaders led by Mzei Anguria Stephen, chairman of the Bukwo Elders Union, openly denounced FGM/C and urged the Sabiny people to shun the practice and educate their girls. In July, during the Pokot’s annual cultural day in Amudat District, the district chairperson said local leaders had resolved to intensify the fight against FGM/C, which would save the lives of many young girls in the area. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) collaborated with local churches to fight FGM/C.
Media reported on April 23 that pregnant women in eastern Kapchorwa District opted to give birth at home to avoid exposing themselves to health workers as having undergone FGM/C; this practice had the unfortunate consequence of increased infant and maternal mortality rates in the district.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Media reported several cases of ritual child killings. Kyampisi Childcare Ministries reported in February that six children were mutilated and killed during the election season as part of rituals to bring good fortune to political candidates. The Coordination Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons reported nine victims of ritual killings through June.
On May 25, police arrested Herbert Were after they found him with his eight-year-old brother’s head. Police said Were confessed to beheading his brother as a precondition for joining a cult named “illuminati,” which promised he would become wealthy.
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. The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development (MGLSD) reported that fear of retaliation deterred many victims from reporting 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 DHS, one in three married women wanted to delay childbirth or space their children but could not access family planning aids. During the year the Ministry of Health reported that 36 percent of women between the ages of 15 to 49 used contraception. Women also faced challenges of religious restrictions imposed by faiths that oppose contraception.
Men’s lack of support for, or active opposition to, family planning often was a main deterrent to contraceptive use, according to a study conducted during the year by the NGO Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development. In August the spokesperson for the government-run National Medical Stores reported men often harassed and beat their wives for using contraceptives.
According to the World Health Organization, the country’s maternal mortality rate was 343 per 100,000 live births. Health officials attributed the high maternal mortality rate to medical complications during delivery and the inability of healthcare facilities to manage them; media cited staff shortages and inadequate supplies at healthcare centers, also noting that health-care centers in rural communities often were inaccessible. According to UNFPA, only 57 percent of births were attended by skilled healthcare personnel.
In June 2015 the Ministry of Health established standards and guidelines to reduce morbidity and mortality related to unsafe abortions, including increasing access to family planning services and legal postabortion care and services. Fear of arrest often made healthcare professionals unwilling to attend to women who had undergone an abortion because the service providers feared police would accuse them of having performed the abortion. Abortion is a criminal offense and punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment for the practitioner and seven years for the mother.
Discrimination: The law provides women the same legal status and rights as men. Discrimination against women, however, was widespread, especially in rural areas. Local NGOs reported numerous cases of discrimination against women in divorce, employment, owning or managing businesses and property, education, and other 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.
During the year CEDOVIP reported receiving 18 cases concerning widows whose in-laws denied them access to marital property, housing, and their children, particularly in cases where the women’s names were absent from the property documents and when the women were in polygynous relationships. The law does not recognize cohabiting relationships, and women involved in such relationships had no judicial recourse to protect their rights.
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.