Uganda: Domestic Violence Bill Under Consideration
Monday, July 27, 2009 1:52 PM

A recent wave of support for a domestic violence bill in Uganda has renewed a long-standing debate in the country about the role of the public in combating domestic violence.

Domestic violence is a serious and ongoing issue in Uganda.  A 2007 Uganda Bureau of Statistics report indicates that as many as 68% of women between the ages of 15 and 47 who are or previously were married experienced some form of domestic violence.  Similarly, a 2006 US Department of State report (section 5) states that roughly 70% of women in Uganda have been physically or sexually abused.

There are diverse reasons for this high rate of domestic violence.  First and foremost, Uganda does not currently have a domestic violence bill.  While Uganda's Constitution grants women "full and equal dignity of the person with men," any attempts to create legislation either defining or punishing domestic violence over the past two decades languished in Parliament.

The Ugandan courts also provide little assistance to victims of domestic violence.  The courts often respond to claims of domestic violence with the assertion that such matters are private in nature and not appropriate for the public square.  Many victims avoid reporting cases of domestic violence for fear of public scrutiny or professional retaliation in their workplaces.

A domestic violence bill was introduced into the Ugandan Parliament in June, 2008. Following a visit by the African Women Leaders Project, an initiative by the Club of Madrid, to support local women’s leaders, the President of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, reportedly expressed support for a domestic violence bill.  In addition, the Ugandan Speaker of the House, Edward Ssekandi Kiwanuka, publicly stated that he would support passage of the domestic violence bill during this session of Parliament.

The bill currently is moving into committee, which it must survive in order to reach a vote by the full Parliament. While Ugandan women’s groups are hopeful for passage of the bill, as stated by Rita Aciro Lacor, national coordinator the Women of Uganda Network, "[i]t’s too early for us to celebrate and unless we have seen this Bill passed into law and the President has assented to it, we will not celebrate."

Compiled from"Uganda: Domestic violence, including legislation, statistics and attitudes toward domestic violence; the availability of protection and support services," Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (UGA102881.E) (6/19/2008); Evelyn Matsamura Kiapi, "RIGHTS-UGANDA : Women Press for Domestic Violence Bill," Inter Press Service News Agency (7/17/2009); "Update on the Women's Legislative Agenda in the 8th Parliament," Women of Uganda Network.