Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Commend Uganda on Phenomenal Progress Made in the Education Sector, Ask about the Cost of Political Campaigns for Women and the Education of Refugees
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today concluded its review of the combined eighth and ninth periodic report of Uganda, with its Experts commending Uganda on the phenomenal progress made in the education sector, and asking about the cost of political campaigns for women and the education of refugees.
A Committee Expert commended Uganda for the phenomenal progress made in the education sector, including the implementations of strategic plans, the establishment of gender units and bi-laws, and the gender sensitive educational infrastructure which had been embarked on. One Committee Expert noted that the cost of political campaigning was high, and this cost may be hindering women from going into politics, asking what steps the Government was taking to offset these costs. A Committee Expert noted a shortfall of teachers in refugee hosting districts and said that the impact of COVID closure on schools had impacted refugee children, asking how these issues and others being faced by refugee women and girls, such as poverty, were being addressed.
In response to questions about political costs, Mutuuzo Peace Regise, Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development of Uganda and Head of Delegation, said that the registration cost for political candidates was minimal and the same for both men and women, noting that some financial support was provided for potential candidates. She said there was a challenge but stated that it was not only the costs of politics that deterred women, but other challenges which applied to both genders. Regarding the shortfall of teachers for refugees, the delegation said that this was not an issue that was just seen in refugee schools but was also widespread throughout Uganda, due to the increased enrolment of children in schools. The delegation said that the issue was being addressed holistically, with parents encouraged to supplement and support private teachers.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Peace Regise said the Government of Uganda was consistent in its pursuit for gender equality and the empowerment of women. It had demonstrated its commitment to the provisions of the Convention and continued to honour that commitment by fulfilling the requirements. In terms of the legislative framework, Uganda had enhanced the number of gender-responsive laws. Ms. Peace Regise also outlined several challenges which Uganda faced, including gender inequality and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The delegation of Uganda was comprised of representatives of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development; the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development; the Ministry of Education and Sports; the National Women’s Council; the Uganda Bureau of Statistics; and the Permanent Mission of Uganda to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Peace Regise said that Uganda appreciated the very warm reception from the Committee and noted that despite not being able to meet physically, they had managed to address all concerns.
Gladys Acosta Vargas, Chair of the Committee, commended Uganda for its progress and encouraged the State party to take all necessary measures to implement all recommendations of the Committee.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eighty-first session is being held from 7 to 25 February. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Meeting summary releases can be found here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.
The Committee will next meet in public at 4 p.m. on Monday, 14 February 14 for an informal meeting with non-governmental organizations and human rights institutions that will discuss the situation of women in Uzbekistan, Peru, Lebanon and the Dominican Republic, whose reports will be reviewed next week.
The Committee has before it the combined eighth and ninth periodic report of Uganda (CEDAW/UGA-Q-8-9)
Presentation of Report
MUTUUZO PEACE REGIS, Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development and Head of the Delegation of Uganda, said the Government of Uganda was consistent in its pursuit for gender equality and the empowerment of women. It had demonstrated its commitment to the provisions of the Convention and continued to honour that commitment by fulfilling the requirements. In terms of the legislative framework, Uganda had enhanced the number of gender-responsive laws which included the Protection of Children Act, the Data Protection Act, the Mental Health Act, and the Prevention of Torture Act. Measures taken to safeguard women’s rights in the COVID-19 era included the National Development Plan 2021-2025 which had been revised to address the impacts of COVID with new priorities set. Following the outbreak of the pandemic, public health measures had included suspension of public transport, and closure of entertainment and places of worship. Public gatherings had been limited to 200 people. The Government was now fully open again.
Uganda had taken measures to improve access to justice for survivors of gender-based violence, including the Equal Opportunities Commission, established in 2020/2021, which received complaints from men, women, youth, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities and institutions. The Ugandan Government had put in place institutions to spearhead the delivery of gender equality and women’s empowerment. The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development was the Government agency mandated to design and implement national gender programmes, policies and interventions on behalf of the Government of Uganda.
The Constitution of Uganda guaranteed the protection of human rights of all Ugandans, including human rights defenders. Key national laws and policies that protected the rights of women human rights defenders and promoted their work had been developed. The National Policy on the Elimination of Gender-based Violence and the National Male Engagement Strategy, developed respectively in 2016 and 2017, provided a clear framework to address cultural barriers and tackle masculinities that perpetuated violence. The Ugandan Government ensured the prevention of trafficking in persons and the prosecution of offenders through the enforcement of the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act 2009. The Office on Prevention of Trafficking in Persons, established under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, operated in close collaboration with other government agencies through a multi-sectoral national taskforce. The Ministry investigated allegations of complicit officials.
A number of measures had been undertaken to ensure girls with special needs had access to higher education. These included the development of an inclusive policy for education, building the capacity of teachers to provide equity responsive education, the creation of awareness on the unique needs of children with special needs, the provision of assistive devices, and the development of specialised materials for the various categories of special needs.
Ms. Peace Regis said that measures had been taken to enact the National Health Insurance with a bill developed and awaiting approval from the Cabinet. She highlighted cervical cancer as a big health threat to women and girls in Uganda, accounting for 40 per cent of all cancers reported in Uganda. The Minister of Health had taken measures to prevent cervical cancer, including the provision of the human papillomavirus vaccination for 10-year-old girls; the training of health workers on screening for early diagnosis; the incorporation of cervical cancer screening in routine post natal care; strengthening case management at the facility level; and through creating public awareness.
Ms. Peace Regis concluded by outlining several challenges which Uganda faced, including gender inequality, which was still a constant constraint to the social-economic transformation of the country. The COVID-19 pandemic had also had a negative impact on the economy due to lock down measures aimed at combatting the spread of the pandemic. She pledged Uganda’s continued collaboration with the Committee to ensure the realisation of the provisions of the Convention.
Questions by a Committee Expert
A Committee Expert welcomed the delegation of Uganda and was delighted to note that the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women formed an integral part of the national policy of Uganda, with the Government widely disseminating the Committee’s recommendations.
The Committee Expert commended the State party for eliminating legal provisions which were discriminatory against women but said that there remained several discriminatory laws in Uganda. The Committee Expert highlighted an urgent need to accelerate the Marriage and Divorce Bill and the Sexual Offences Bill, to ensure women and girls had equality in marriage, inheritance and work life, asking how Uganda would ensure the removal of these discriminatory laws. The Committee Exert asked the delegation to describe the measures taken to establish a division in the High Court to handle gender-based violence? It was noted that Uganda accepted refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons and had partnered with civil society organizations to assist these people; what were the following steps in this direction? What steps were being taken to ensure that women’s leadership was granted on the district level?
Response by the Delegation
The delegation responded that women’s leadership in Uganda was present at the district level, outlining titles which were held by women from the village to the national level. Special courts existed to ensure women’s issues and concerns were addressed, with a women-focused judiciary.
The delegation said a number of laws had been changed to remove discrimination against women in Uganda. The Marriage and Divorce Bill and the Sexual Offenses Bill would be re-tabled imminently.
Uganda had opened its doors to refugees and was one of the most accommodating countries in the world in this regard, sharing all their resources with refugees. All the bills related to and concerning women were being raised in Parliament.
MUTUUZO PEACE REGIS, Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development and Head of the Delegation of Uganda, assured the Committee that discrimination against women in Uganda would be a thing of a past once work was done with key stakeholders.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert commended Uganda on strengthening the national machinery for women, saying it was impressive to see these steps taken, especially on the adoption and implementation of gender mainstreaming development in the oil and gas sector, but said problems remained at the local level. How would necessary technical skills be strengthened? How did Uganda plan to strengthen the ministries and local governments’ capacities to monitor mainstreaming gender equality in the planning and budgeting process? Concerning the Ugandan Human Rights Commission, what had been done to strengthen this body and discharge its mandate effectively and in full compliance with the Paris Principles.
Another Committee Expert commended the Ugandan Government on its implementation of special measures to achieve equality in several fields, including the Ugandan Defence Forces, and to combat gender-based violence across the country. However, what plan did the State party have to adopt temporary special measures for vulnerable women, particularly those from rural areas? Would the State adopt additional special measures to progress the equal treatment of women with disabilities and indigenous women in politics? What measures had been introduced to combat gender-based violence in rural areas and what had been the results? How were women in the Ugandan Defence Forces supported and protected from discrimination? Was Uganda considering additional special temporary measures to combat the effects of COVID-19 on the issue of achieving substantive gender equality in Uganda?
Response by the Delegation
The delegation said that 47 per cent of women in Uganda were represented in leadership positions within the local government. Nine government agencies had been streamlined to work together on mainstreaming gender equality in the planning and budgeting process. On the Ugandan Human Rights Commission, it was following up every matter where legislation was not fair and this was followed up in the courts. Gender laws were reviewed every 10 years to cover all gaps and ensure all areas were covered and protected. When issues signalling discrimination were found, they were resolved through a concerted effort with civil society organizations. Research was being conducted throughout the country to ensure that gender issues were addressed comprehensively. On assisting vulnerable persons, a programme was in place to empower local women and target vulnerable people, including those living with a terminal illness or single mothers. A number of young girls had been accepted at Ugandan university courses with a balance achieved between both genders. Enrolment at the school education level was also measured. The delegation noted that COVID had been a challenge, with many young girls falling pregnant at this time. They were able to go back to school and continue their studies whilst being supported. Previously pregnant women and girls were not allowed back to school, but this special measure had been implemented to ensure they were not disadvantaged at this tender age.
The delegation noted that physical violence had been reduced by over 50 per cent, which was a big achievement. The active participation of men in informing toxic masculinity was encouraged.
The delegation said that women with disabilities, elderly women and youth were represented in parliament through the appointment of representatives.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert began by commending Uganda for the progress made in adopting legislative and policy measures to address gender-based violence, some initiatives which included the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act, and the development and adoption of the National Policy on the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence and the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act. The Committee Expert congratulated Uganda on being a role model on women’s equality within Africa. However, it was noted that violence continued to manifest throughout the life cycle of women and girls, while cultural norms and stereotypes reinforced negative attitudes about women’s status and abilities. What were Uganda’s plans for a more comprehensive strategy, and how would the existing legal framework and gender-based violence programming be strengthened? The Committee Expert highlighted the development of the National Male Involvement Strategy, asking what the impact had been and what significant behavioural changes had taken place?
The Committee Expert expressed concern at the continued prevalence of the harmful practice of female genital mutilation in the State party, particularly in six districts, asking whether there was a plan in affected communities to engage with parents, religious and cultural leaders, local governments, youth and the media. The Committee Expert asked for plans for expansion and budget allocation to ensure the future sustainability of shelters. Uganda was commended for the adoption of its third National Action Plan and was asked how the protection of women and girls from gender-based violence was prioritised in the Plan.
A Committee Expert addressed trafficking and prostitution, saying young women in Uganda remained one of the most vulnerable groups, with agencies that were operating within the country working with traffickers to recruit girls. This was supported by the corruption in the county, with the Committee Expert highlighting instances where religious leaders would facilitate trafficking for a fee. What measures were being taken in this regard? Had the corruption which was causing this been addressed by the Government? The Committee Expert said there were over 1 million refugees in Uganda with 11 refugee camps across the country. What had been done regarding the corruption of officials involved in the trafficking business? The Committee Expert said between 7,000 and 12,000 children were estimated to be involved in prostitution in Uganda. How was the law on prostitution in Uganda dealing with this? Noting that prostitution was illegal, the Committee Expert said there were three parties involved including the client, the pimp and the girl and asked who exactly would be prosecuted in this instance. What penalties were imposed on those who were convicted for the crimes of human trafficking? Were there shelters for victims of trafficking which would be financed by the government budget?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation responded to issues of cultural norms and gender stereotypes by saying that a robust network of government institutions and civil society organizations existed, working with cultural institutions to address discrimination and sexual based violence. Many of the cultural leaders understood the importance of employing women. Male activists in Uganda were very supportive, and looked out for perpetrators engaged in violence against women
Pre-COVID Uganda had reduced female genital mutilation from 18 per cent to 0.3 per cent. When the market was closed due to COVID and goods could not be sold, people resorted to female genital mutilation for financial reasons. The Ugandan Government had held a meeting with Ministers in the East African Community and the Ministers of Gender to ensure a law was enacted to outlaw female genital mutilation, no matter where it was perpetuated. The Government aimed to integrate the budget to include the support of shelters throughout the country and to ensure that shelters could help as many people as possible.
On trafficking and the abuse of women, the delegation said that bilateral agreements were being signed with various countries. Corruption was being fought in Uganda and those who had taken children or young girls had been prosecuted with big penalties attached. The delegation said this was the first time that they had heard about police officers committing sexual-based violence in refugee camps. The laws were applicable to everyone. Forced labour was prohibited and courts dealt with anybody who was forcing children into labour.
The delegation said that a leadership tribunal had been established to target corruption amongst the public servants who supported human trafficking. On prostitution, the laws were stringent with culprits severely punished.
MUTUUZO PEACE REGIS, Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development and Head of the Delegation of Uganda, said prostitution laws were not discriminatory and they prosecuted those buying and selling and supporting the girls involved.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert acknowledged the improvements concerning women’s rights and empowerment in Uganda, noting that training and upskilling had contributed to this result. However, women’s representation remained low. Could the State provide the Committee with comprehensive data on the participation of women with disabilities and indigenous women in leadership? Could the delegation clarify if a 50 per cent quota for leadership could be applied? What was the State doing to increase the number of women voting during elections and ensure their safety? What was being done to ensure that those with disabilities had the right to vote and take office? What action was being taken to offset the high costs of political campaigning which the Committee Expert said was discouraging women from entering politics? The Committee Expert noted that urban refugee women’s organizations were struggling with the Non-governmental Organizations Act. What was the Government doing to make this process easier and less expensive and would training be conducted on how to register and operate a non-governmental organization?
Responses by the Delegation
MUTUUZO PEACE REGIS, Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development and Head of the Delegation of Uganda, said that the registration cost for political candidates was minimal and was the same for males and females, with financial support provided. She acknowledged the challenge but stated that it was not only the costs that deterred women – there were other challenges which applied to both men and women. She expressed confidence in Uganda’s ability to support people with disabilities and said their voices were being heard and their concerns were being addressed. People with disabilities were supported on projects with grants provided by the Government. Advocacy had been carried out to ensure the indigenous communities were organised and integrated within society and protected.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert congratulated the delegation for the progress achieved by Uganda in promoting and protecting women’s rights. It was noted that Ugandan nationality could be granted to a permanent resident who had lived in the country for a given period of time through naturalisation. The Committee Expert welcomed the possibility for women to have dual nationality, especially foreign women who could transfer their nationality to their children. Could details on the registration of births and the procedures for transferring the foreign mother’s nationality to her children be provided? What measures were being taken by Uganda to reduce statelessness?
A Committee Expert asked about the lack of implementation of regulations, noting that several employment regulations had been developed, but was concerned that these were not enforced due to lack of funds and inspectors. What measures was the State party taking to fully implement employment working regulations to achieve equality? The Committee noted that over 95 per cent of Ugandan women worked in the informal sector, with those self-employed making up 50 per cent of the working age population. Could the State party clarify how far women in the informal sector were covered by the social security system, including maternity pay? Why were employers only obligated to have measures against sexual harassment when they employed 25 or more staff members – would these laws be expanded? How were they monitored?
A Committee Expert began with a positive evaluation of the State party for promoting access to a wide range of health services in all regions and implementing plans which included the Health Sector Development Plan and the National HIV Strategy. What progress had been made to ensure universal access to affordable contraception and evidence-based information on contraceptive services? What was being done to remove the stigma around abortion, especially in the circumstances when abortion was allowed by law? What measures were being taken by the State to ensure basic maternal health care, including obstetric care in all health facilities, particularly for persons with disabilities and those in refugee settings? What was being done to eliminate the risk of HIV/AIDS faced by women and girls? What was being done to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on women and girls’ health?
A Committee Expert commended the State party for the phenomenal progress made in the education sector, including strategic plans, establishment of gender units, the establishment of bi-laws, and the gender sensitive educational infrastructure which had been embarked on. The Committee Expert questioned the delegation on menstrual pads, asking when taxes would be removed to increase affordability of menstrual pads, especially in rural areas. The Committee Expert commended the delegation’s review of the HIV guidelines and the monitoring tool on the number of girls who were pregnant which the Committee Expert said was highly commendable. What measures were in place to ensure the integration of young mothers into the educational system and what was being done to correct the transition rates of girls in secondary schools? The Committee asked what measures were in place to comply with the recommendations to have safe, free or affordable contraception, post pandemic. A Committee Expert noted a shortfall of teachers in refugee hosting districts and said that the impact of COVID closure on schools had impacted refugee children. How were these and other issues, such as poverty in girls, being addressed in the refugee community? The Committee Expert commended the inclusive disability act but stated that some components had not been implemented. Could accountability systems regarding the budget be shared? The Committee Expert expressed concern about the dwindling budget on education, asking what was being done to introduce free education.
Reponses by the Delegation
The delegation said that the strategy on the elimination of all forms of violence would be streamlined and integrated within all programmes. Regarding measures to address the oil and gas sector gap, the delegation said the Uganda Petroleum Institute favoured girls for enrolment and allowed to them to gain skills and confidence in this industry. Regarding temporary measures to support women with disabilities in parliament, the delegation noted that these women were represented in parliament and at the ministerial level. The Ugandan Government was lobbying the appointing authorities in international organizations to increase the presence of Ugandan women and was optimistic that this outcome would be improved.
Regarding the shortfall of teachers, this was not just seen in refugee schools but was also widespread and was due to the increased enrolment of children in schools. This issue was being addressed holistically. A closer working relationship between teachers and parents was encouraged, with parents encouraged to supplement private teachers. Schools existed for special education and budgeting was being improved.
The delegation said that the Government had waived the taxes on disposable sanitary towels, with girls taught how to make reusable towels in school. Cases of violence against children in school had been greatly reduced. On education for refugees, a response plan for refugees had been adopted with 936 teachers recruited and facilities improved. The Government was ensuring that refugees could access education. A mid-term survey would be conducted to ascertain the dropout rate
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert congratulated Uganda for the progress achieved on women’s rights, both in the law and the regulation and effectiveness of those rights. The Government of Uganda was also congratulated on its programme for women’s entrepreneurship which gave women access to finance and technology. Could the delegation explain what the Government had done to increase access to funding for women’s businesses? What was being done to reinforce landownership rights and inheritance rights for women? Were women given free access to core social services? Did women benefit from leisure centres and were they able to represent Uganda in sport and in all areas of cultural life?
A Committee Expert said that a large majority of women resided in rural areas, commending the State party on the new legislation and projects aimed at rural women. However, concern was noted about existing mechanisms for assessing the gender-sensitivity of these projects. A gender policy had been established with the aim to increase women’s access to land. However, women continued to be dispossessed of land through violence or poverty. What measures were in place to address these gender-based issues in rural areas? The Committee Expert noted a violent land expulsion case from years ago, asking how the case could be expedited and justice brought to the victims.
The Committee Expert highlighted instances of violations in fishing communities by army officials. Would the State party consider suspending army officers in fishing communities and hold accountable those who had grossly violated human and women’s rights? Moving on to women with disabilities, the Committee Expert asked the delegation what measures were in place to ensure the full implementation of the Equal Opportunities Act to ensure that women with disabilities had access to jobs and education on an equal basis with others. The Committee Expert said that lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women faced discrimination, which was evident in HIV public health campaigns and new discriminatory laws, and expressed concern that these women continued to be harassed and stigmatised. Could the State party ensure that Ugandan police investigated all violations against these people? Would the issue of hate speech against this group be addressed?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that the Ugandan Women Entrepreneurship Programme was one of its kind, created to enable vulnerable women to conduct business. This programme had allowed women to improve their lives and support their families. The Government of Uganda aimed to provide training and education to everyone living under the poverty line to improve their incomes. The right to participate in sport and recreation was strongly enhanced by the Minister of Education. A cultural forum existed where women held 50 per cent of the seats and the concerns of the creative industries could be raised. Regarding the disadvantage of rural women, the delegation said that a number of markets had been established which gave women more autonomy and freedom in their work. The delegation said that Uganda’s laws did not discriminate based on gender - anyone in violation of the law, no matter their status, would be treated and trialled equally.
Follow-up Questions by a Committee Expert
A Committee Expert asked whether there was a clear standard of care and whether people were reprimanded in a respectful way which recognised their dignity and humanity, stating that these kinds of teachings should be in the training guidelines of public officials. If fisherwoman were often accused of being witches, were there measures in place to protect women stigmatised as witches in these fishing communities?
Responses by the Delegation
MUTUUZO PEACE REGIS, Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development and Head of the Delegation of Uganda, said that there was no discrimination on the grounds of gender and that she had not heard the reports which had been raised by the Committee. The delegation said that issues such as witches and complementary medicines were not treated as women’s issues, but those who committed these offences were prosecuted under the same measures, regardless of their gender.
Questions by a Committee Expert
A Committee Expert said that Ugandan law recognised five types of marriages, which was complex for the Government. Women in Uganda remained excluded from land ownership due to deeply ingrained cultural practices such as land being signed in their husband’s name while they were signed as the witness, noted the Committee Expert. Land was passed down through male lineage, at a disadvantage to women. The Committee Expert said that despite the Ugandan Constitution that listed the marital age as 18 and above, customary laws permitted child marriage, polygamy and other harmful practices. The Succession and Amendment Bill was a crucial bill which allowed properties to be divided equally between men and women in a case of death or divorce. Did this bill apply to all marriages, including Muslim marriages in Uganda? How would the Government implement this bill into everyday life?
Responses by the Delegation
The Succession and Amendment Bill, which was being finalised, provided equality of inheritance for women and men, said the delegation. On the issue of land, a woman could put land in her name and was allowed to own land – this was allowed without any strings attached. Many of the issues addressed by the Committee would be addressed in the Succession and Amendment Bill.
The delegation said that the Succession and Amendment Bill was awaiting presidential approval and had very progressive protections for women. On the issue of marriage, parties had a right to enter into a marriage at the age of 18 years, with early marriage clearly prohibited.
MUTUUZO PEACE REGIS, Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development and Head of the Delegation of Uganda, thanked the Committee for their vigilant follow-up on the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of the Discrimination against Women, and for reviewing the report. She appreciated the very warm reception from the Committee and noted that despite not being able to meet physically, they had managed to address all concerns.
GLADYS ACOSTA VARGAS, Chair of the Committee, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue, which allowed the Committee to have a greater understanding of the situation of women in Uganda. The Chair commended the State party for its progress and encouraged Uganda to take all necessary measures to implement all recommendations of the Committee.
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