Women activists want sexual offenses law passed

GYAGENDA KABUUBI

Last month’s expose by NBS TV on the alleged sexual harassment of female students at Makerere University, women rights activist groups have turned the heat on Parliament.

Members of the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) were on Monday joined by civil society organisations (CSOs) to issue a joint statement against the alleged sexual harassment and violence against female students in education institutions.

“Despite the existence of laws and policies, sexual harassment and assault of women and girls continues to happen with impunity in Uganda because the laws are yet to be meaningfully implemented,” the CSOs stated in a joint statement.

UWOPA chairperson, Monica Amoding who is also the Kumi Woman MP said, it is time for Parliament to pass the Sexual Offenses Bill which has remained on shelf since December 2015 when she tabled it for the first reading as a Private Member’s Bill.

The object of her bill is to consolidate all laws relating to sexual offenses, combat sexual violence, provide for punishment of sexual offenders, provide for procedural and evidential requirements during trial of sexual offenses and for other related matters.

Amoding’s bill came at a time when government had taken more than a decade drafting a similar bill. It was conceived after increased reports of rape and defilement cases for women and girls despite existing provisions in the Penal code prohibiting offenses such as assault, indecent assault, defilement, rape and attempted rape among others.
“Parliament of Uganda should expedite the passage of the Sexual Offenses Bill to strengthen protection for women and girls from sexual abuse and exploitation,” the CSO stated, also demanding for the amendment of the Education Act 2008 to include measures against sexual harassment and assault.

DATABASE
Amonding indicated that she also planning to amend the bill to include a provision that requires for a the establishment of a database of all sexual offenders.
“If a person is in a position of trust like teachers, lecturers, health workers…the way forward is to have a database so that we record the history of persons with such kind of conduct,” Amoding said.
This will lead to cancellation of their professional certificates and subsquently locked out of the employment world.

Another amendment is the introduction of a remedial act rejecting proposals by parents to negotiate out of court settlement of cases with sexual offenders.
“80 percent of the cases in courts are related [sexual offenses] but many of them die because parents negotiate with the offenders. We are proposing that before the matter is scheduled for hearing, or once it is reported, the state takes it over and prohibits any out of court negotiations,” Amoding said.

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