PRESS STATEMENT: A WOMEN’S CALL ON MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT TO PRIORITIZE PASSING OF THE PENDING GENDER BILLS; THE MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE BILL AND THE SEXUAL OFFENCES BILL AND ACCORDING DUE CONSIDERATION TO THE PROPOSED GENDER RESPONSIVE CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS

Happy New Year!

 

We citizens and activists on women and human rights gather here today to call upon Members of the 9th Parliament to prioritize enactment of the key gender pending bills before the House and give due consideration to the proposed gender responsive constitutional amendments which will go a long way in promoting and protecting the rights of all Ugandans particularly women and girls that continue to suffer marginalization in a range of aspects.

 

We commend the 9th Parliament for the responsive laws passed and remarkable decisions made during their term. As we draw closer to the end of the term of the 9th Parliament, we continue to urge our Parliamentarians to pay utmost respect and attention to issues that affect the day to day lives of Ugandans and have a huge impact on social justice, welfare and social economic development at household and national level

 

Currently 25% of Ugandans live under abject poverty with women in a more disproportionate position; 16 women die every day while giving life; 1 in four teenage girls between 15 and 19 is pregnant; of the 1.2 million pregnancies recorded in Uganda annually, 25 per cent of these are teenage pregnancies; a backlash in prevention and control of HIV/AIDS spread with an alarming increase in the prevalence to 7.3%;

59% of women suffer violence. This directly affects production and productivity of both women and men; children’s performance and stay in school ultimately leading to high levels of poverty. Therefore it is critical to prioritize passing of the Marriage and Divorce Bill 2009; the Sexual Offences Bill and amending the Constitution to further entrench equal right, power, opportunity, voice, representation and participation of women and men in making decisions that will change the lives of all Ugandans for the better.

 

The Marriage and Divorce Bill 2009 formerly the Domestic Relations Bill (DRB) has a long history that dates back to 1957. The Bill in particular seeks to conform with the Constitution by reforming and consolidating existing laws relating to marriage, marital rights and duties. The Bill in sum gives effect to the principle in Article 31(1) of the Constitution that ‘men and women are entitled to equal rights in marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution’.

 

The Bill was presented on the floor of Parliament in February 2013, it was debated and about 20 clauses were passed before the process was halted to allow for members of Parliament to further consult the public on some of the contentious clauses. Since then, the debate of the Bill was neither continued nor was a report of the findings of the consultations by members of Parliament presented on the floor to guide further proceedings.

In October 2014, a Citizens Appeal to Members of Parliament to debate and enact the Marriage and Divorce Bill was presented before the Speaker of Parliament. We once again call out to the Speaker, the Members of Parliament and the Executive to pass this important piece of legislation to redress major injustices faced mostly by women that inhibit them from actualizing their rights.

 

We further urge Members of Parliament to enact the Sexual Offences Bill; it’s Provisions are geared towards ensuring constitutionality and promoting access to justice especially for victims of sexual assault in Uganda. Currently the upsurge of sexual abuse incidences in Uganda is a matter of concern yet the legal regime relating to sexual violence is inadequate in a number of ways ranging from the drafting language to procedural loopholes which is an obstacle to a victim’s justice. Sexual violence takes place in varied settings, including the home, the work place, schools and community; it takes different forms and affects mainly girls and women.

In 2000, the GOU introduced the ‘Sexual Offences Bill’ which sought to amend the provisions of various enactments on sexual offenses, procedural and evidential requirements during trail of sexual offenses and for other related matters. Since then, little progress has been made to pass this Bill into law. The government of Uganda is under an obligation to ensure that the legal regime and policy framework on sexual violence is up to date and in conformity with international standards that Uganda is party to and constitutional guarantees. It is in this regard that the sexual offences Bill is a much needed reform initiative.

Last but not least, we call upon Parliament and the Executive to prioritize the proposed gender responsive Constitutional Amendments that are highlighted key amongst others

 

  • Property rights; Equal rights of usage and disposal of property acquired during marriage
  • Affirmative Action; Retain affirmative action, reduce the numbers of MPS by having one man and one women representing a district and all political parties must conform to the constitution of Uganda on Gender Equality.
  • Constitution of the Electoral Commission; Equal representation of women and men on the Electoral Commission and the commissioners shall for only one term of seven years.
  • Financing of Political Parties; Political parties shall allocate 40% of their budgets to the women’s leagues of their respective parties.
  • Civic education; Electoral Commission materials formulated for civic educational programs should address gender stereotypes and discrimination against women.
  • Review of Constituency size; Resourcing/facilitation of MPs/Councilors of the constituencies should be proportionate to the size

 

(a full copy herewith attached). These were submitted by the women of Uganda under the umbrella of the Women Democracy Group. These proposed amendments are intended to advance gender equality; further an inclusive democratization process; promote the rule of law and the respect of human rights.

 

We therefore once again call upon the Speaker of Parliament and Members of Parliament to;

  • Ensure that the Parliamentary debate on the Marriage and Divorce Bill is completed and the Bill enacted before the end of the Fourth session of the 9th Parliament of Uganda.
  • Consider the proposals and alternative language provided in the Position Paper on the Marriage and Divorce Bill developed by FIDA (U) on behalf of the Coalition).
  • Ensure that the Sexual Offences Bill is debated and passed into law so that a procedural law pertaining to sexual offences especially in the area of victim handling is available.
  • Duly consider the proposed gender responsive constitutional amendments submitted to Parliament by the women of Uganda once the amendment process commences.

 

For and on behalf of the voices of Women in Uganda

 

UNITED WOMEN CAN!

FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY

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