Women and Justice: Location

Legislation

Succession Act (Amendment) Decree 22/72 of 1972 (1972)

Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

Uganda allows for customary law to govern many situations, but the Succession Act restricts their applicability in inheritance cases.  It enshrines women’s right to inherit from husbands, but also privileges men because 1) the property of a married woman who dies intestate automatically will go to her spouse, unlike a man who dies intestate; 2) the matrimonial home will go to the legal heir, the determination of which prioritizes male relatives; 3) a widow (or widows in polygamous marriages, who must share) may only inherit 15% of her husband’s estate; and 4) maintenance and occupancy rights of widows terminate if they remarry.  

Original Act (1906)



Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2010 (2010)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Harmful traditional practices

The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act (“PFGM”) outlaws all acts of FGM on oneself and others as well as attempts, procurement, and participation.  It allows no exceptions for consent, religion, or culture, and creates a duty to report to the police any knowledge of planned or completed FGM.  The penalty is imprisonment not to exceed 10 years for the perpetrator and five years for any participants or abettors.  Violations are considered aggravated if the FGM causes death, the offender has control over the victim (e.g., a parent or guardian), the victim has a disability, the victim contracts HIV/AIDS, and/or the perpetrator is a health worker.  The penalty for aggravated violations is life imprisonment.  The PFGM Act also prohibits any discrimination against women and girls who have not undergone FGM and discrimination against male relatives of women who have not undergone FGM.  



Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2009 (2009)

Trafficking in persons

The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2009 (the “PTPA”) defines and prohibits human trafficking and aggravated trafficking.  The PTPA mandates punishment for trafficking in persons, trafficking in children, using the labor of a trafficked person, promoting trafficking, attempts to traffic persons, and aiding and abetting trafficking.  The PTPA also provides for the protection of and non-discrimination against trafficked persons, including that they not be held liable for any crimes committed as a direct result of the trafficking, that survivors be provided with legal advice throughout the proceedings, and that survivors shall be provided with medical care or social services.  The sentences for trafficking in persons, aggravated trafficking, and trafficking in children are, respectively, fifteen years imprisonment, life imprisonment, and death.  



National Women's Council Act of 1993 (amended 2010, 2015) (1993)

Gender discrimination

The National Women’s Council Act (“NWCA”) creates women’s councils to coordinate and promote the organization of “the women of Uganda in a unified body; and to engage the women in activities that are of benefit to them and the nation.”  There are village, parish/ward, subcounty/division/town, county, and district women’s councils, each of which is comprised of all of the women in the geographical region.  Each council elects a six-member leadership committee, members of which may only serve on one at a time (e.g., if a woman is on the village committee and is then elected to the parish committee, her seat on the village committee is vacated).  The National Women’s Council must be comprised of one elected representative from each district, two representatives from NGOs, and two elected female student representatives.

2010 Amendments

2015 Amendments



Land Act of 1998 (amended 2004, 2010) (1998)

Property and inheritance rights

The Land Act, after amendments, protects a spouse’s occupancy of family land and requires their consent for any transaction involving the land on which they live or use for sustenance, but does not provide for automatic co-ownership between spouses.  Any decision that unconstitutionally disfavors the property rights of women and children is invalid.  The Act also requires that land management mechanisms have at least 1/3 female members.

2004 Amendments (spousal rights added)

2010 Amendments



Hindu Marriage and Divorce Act of 1961 (1961)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage

The HMD Act regulates Hindu (including Jain and Sikh) marriages and codifies the specific requirements of these marriages and divorces.  



Employment (Sexual Harassment) Regulations of 2012 (2012)

Employment discrimination, Sexual harassment

The Employment (Sexual Harassment) Regulations of 2012 (the “ESH Regulations”) define, prohibit, and provide punishments for sexual harassment in the workplace.  The ESH Regulations were produced by the Directorate of Labour pursuant to the powers conferred by the Employment Act of 2006 (sec. 7, 97(1)).  The Regulations require employers with more than 25 employees to institute measures to prevent sexual harassment, including a written sexual harassment policy, providing the written policy to all employees with a copy, posting the policy in a public area, conducting regular trainings, and designating a “gender sensitive” person to handle sexual harassment complaints.  The Regulations also provide reporting guidelines, prohibition of retaliation, and appeals processes.  The penalty for sexual harassment is a fine not to exceed six currency points (a currency point is 20,000 USH) and/or imprisonment not to exceed three months.



Employment Act of 2006 (2006)

Employment discrimination

The Employment Act of 2006 applies to all employment in Uganda other than soldiers.  The Directorate of Labour, under the Minister of Labour, has the power to issue regulations of the Act’s provisions.  Section 7 prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace.  The Employment (Sexual Harassment) Regulations of 2012 provide the details of Uganda’s sexual harassment policy.  Sections 56 and 57, respectively, provide for fully paid maternity and paternity leave.  Female employees are entitled to 60 days, four weeks of which must be taken immediately following birth or miscarriage, of paid maternity leave with the right to return to the same job or its equivalent.  A male employee is entitled to four working days of fully paid leave and the right to return to the same job immediately after his wife’s birth or miscarriage.  Uganda does not currently require employers to provide office space or time for breastfeeding.



Domestic Violence Act of 2010 (2010)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The Domestic Violence Act of 2010 (the “DVA”) defines and prohibits domestic violence.  The penalty for domestic violence is imprisonment not to exceed two years or the payment of a fine not to exceed forty-eight currency points, or both.  At the Court’s discretion, the perpetrator may also have to provide monetary compensation to the victim.  Romantic and other familial relationships are “domestic,” and marriage is expressly not required.  Domestic violence complaints may be brought before local council courts (“LC courts”) pursuant to the procedures outlined in the DVA, which require that the LC refer the matter to the police and local magistrate court if the perpetrator is a repeat offender, the perpetrator is likely to continue to harm the victim, and the LC court’s opinion is that police and magistrate court involvement is warranted.  LC courts must also inform the police and magistrate if there are children involved in the domestic relationship.  Appeals and other procedural details about LC court proceedings can be found in the Local Council Act of 2006.  In complaints made to police officers, survivors have the right to give their statement to an officer of the same sex.  The DVA requires that magistrate courts follow the Family and Children Court Rules (from the Children Act of 2006) in domestic violence cases.  Finally, the DVA sets parameters for interim and permanent protection orders.  The DVA and the Penal Code do not criminalize a husband’s rape of his wife, or so-called “marital rape.”  A proposed bill, the Domestic Relations Bill of 2003, would criminalize such actions, but Parliament has repeatedly declined to pass it.  



Customary Marriage (Registration) Act of 1973 (1973)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Forced and early marriage, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices

The Customary Marriage Act (CMA) sets parameters for acceptable customary marriages and requirements for registration and dissolution.  Customary marriages are prohibited if the female party is younger than 16 years old or the male party is younger than 18 years old, either party is of unsound mind, they are too closely related, the marriage is otherwise prohibited by one of the parties’ customs, or one of the parties is still in an existing monogamous marriage.  Subsequent monogamous or Muslim marriages will not be recognized and are void if there was a pre-existing customary marriage.



Anti-Pornography Act of 2014 (2014)

Gender discrimination, Statutory rape or defilement

The Anti-Pornography Act (“APA”) bans creation, publication, distribution, and abetting of pornography and child pornography.  It also creates a nine-member council to handle pornography issues, including public education, maintaining a registry of offenders, and destruction of seized materials.  Human rights groups have expressed concerns that the language defining pornography as “any representation through publication, exhibition, cinematography, indecent show, information technology or by whatever means, of a person engaged in real or stimulated [sic] explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual excitement” is overly broad and could lead to confusion.  For example, some organizations have nicknamed it Uganda’s “mini-skirt ban” because “any representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual excitement” could be interpreted as applicable to revealing clothing.



Domestic Case Law

Sharma & Another v. Uganda Supreme Court at Mengo (2002)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The appellants are brothers appealing their conviction for the murder of wife of the first appellant, Kooky Sharma.  The first Appellant and the deceased lived in a two-family building.  On the night of the murder, their neighbors heard two male voices and a woman crying “for a long time” inside the first appellant’s home.  The next day, the local council chairman learned of the victim’s death and visited the home.  The first appellant told him that the victim died of malaria.  The chairman was not satisfied with the explanation, noting that the victim’s clothing covered her entire body except for her face, and he prevented the first Appellant from immediately cremating the victim.  After the police examined the deceased’s body and found bruising, they opened a murder investigation and returned to search the first Appellant’s home.  There they found the male household cook lying unconscious in bed and badly beaten.  The police brought him to the hospital for treatment, but he disappeared by the time they returned to question him two days later and remained missing throughout the subsequent investigation and trial.  Medical examinations of the deceased conflicted with each other.  One medical examination of found bruising from electrical or acid burns and organ damage.  It found that the cause of death was “shock due to electrical burns with blunt injury.  Poison could not be ruled out.”  In another examination, the Senior Government Chemist found acaricide poison in the deceased’s liver, spleen, kidneys, and brain. The appellants appeal based on the discrepancies in the medical opinions regarding the cause of death.  The Court, explaining that judges may accept the evidence of one witness over another, held that the discrepancy was due to one doctor’s lack of experience and that the findings of the more experienced physician were reliable.  In addition, the second appellant, the deceased’s brother-in-law, also argued that the identification that led to his conviction was faulty and that the trial court failed to properly consider his alibi.  The Supreme Court found that the lower courts’ analysis seemed to require that the second appellant prove his alibi rather than require that the prosecution disprove it and so upheld the second appellant’s appeal.  The Court also expressed two grievances about the proceedings at the trial court.  The Court’s first complaint was that the defendants did not give sworn testimony but improperly were allowed to make unsworn statements guided by their attorneys.  The Court also reprimanded the attorneys for raising too many objections during trial and bogging down the proceedings.



Uganda v. Seruga High Court at Kampala (2004)

Harmful traditional practices

The three defendants were indicted for the murder of Nabwire Harriet and Nakamate Gaita, an infant.  August 27, 2002, the family received an anonymous letter telling them to leave their house, which they reported to authorities.  The next night, the defendants poured petrol through the window and set the house on fire.  Defendant Seruga hired the other two defendants to burn the house because they believed they family was practicing witchcraft.  The defendants were seen together the night of the fire and heard discussing how they committed the crime afterwards.  After their arrest, the defendants confessed to working together to set the fire, which they recanted at arraignment.  The trial court found them guilty and sentenced the three to death, but vacated the second death sentences for the second victim because an execution cannot be carried out twice.



Sabwe v. Uganda Supreme Court at Mengo (2010)

Statutory rape or defilement

Appellant was convicted of defilement of a girl less than 18 years old and was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. Trial testimony established that while the 13-year-old girl and her younger sister were fetching water at a well, appellant, disguised as a ghost, ordered the two to remove their dresses, blindfolded them, and led them through a swamp to some bush where he had sexual intercourse with the older sister. He then left the sisters in the bush overnight, and the sisters’ father was unable to find them. Appellant then went to the father’s house and told him that he could use his witchcraft powers to find the sisters if the father paid him two goats and two chickens. Upon payment, appellant went back to the brush and brought the sisters to his home, claiming that they needed treatment. While at appellant’s home, the older sister told her father that appellant had raped her. At trial, the court rejected appellant’s defense that a ghost had abducted the sisters and he was merely using his witchcraft powers to help find the girls. Instead, the court relied on the sisters’ testimony, who claimed that they recognized appellant’s voice. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction and sentence. First, the court found that appellant lived only a quarter mile away from the sisters and used to come to their home and speak to their father, thus supporting the assertion that the sisters were able to identify appellant through voice recognition. Second, the court found that appellant’s witchcraft defense could not be reasonably believed and that the fact that he immediately located the sisters upon payment supported the inference that he was the one who brought them there.



Mugasa v. Uganda Court of Appeal at Kampala (2010)

Statutory rape or defilement

This appeal was limited to sentencing only. Appellant was convicted of defilement of a baby girl and was sentenced to 17 years imprisonment. Appellant was a relative of the child and was known as a teacher of Christianity. Appellant requested a more lenient sentence of 10 years. The Court of Appeals ruled against Appellant and increased his sentence to 25 years, citing the policy consideration that, despite the fact that defilement can be punishable by death, individuals still continue to defile babies. Thus, the court used this case as an opportunity to send a message to society that “violating the rights of child females must stop.”



Mbatudde v. Uganda Court of Appeal at Kampala (2010)

Acid violence, Domestic and intimate partner violence

The victim died from concentrated sulfuric acid burns covering over 60% of his body.  On the night of his death, the deceased’s female partner, the appellant, and baby spent the night with him.  On the night of the attack, his landlords heard screaming coming from the apartment.  When they arrived, they saw the victim, who said he did not know who attacked him, and the Appellant, who did not appear to have any burns.  The appellant argued that she did not commit the attack and that they both had been attacked by a third party, possibly a former partner of the appellant.  On appeal, she argued that the trial court had improperly convicted her solely based on circumstantial evidence and that the death sentence should be mitigated.  The Court of Appeal rejected these arguments and upheld the conviction and sentence because of the particularly heinous nature of acid attacks.



Kirungi v. Mugabe High Court at Kampala (2013)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence

The petitioner requests a divorce from the respondent and money to care for the parties’ daughter, for whom the petitioner is the sole caregiver. The parties were married in July 2008 in Uganda and then moved to Woburn, Massachusetts, USA.  The respondent husband physically abused his wife, especially when intoxicated.  During the time they lived together, the respondent usually slept in the sitting room.  For three years they lived apart, but were reconciled by relatives.  During the reconciliation, the parties had a daughter.  The respondent was never involved in caring for the child and eventually left the family home to live with his mother 45 minutes away.  The petitioner returned to Uganda where she is the sole parent and provider for her daughter.  The court granted the request for a divorce on the grounds of cruelty and desertion.  The court explained that the best interests of the child control all determinations relating to children.  The court granted the petitioner custody of the daughter and $400 (USD or the USh equivalent) per month from the respondent for their daughter’s maintenance.



Tibenderana v. Al-Torki High Court at Kampala (2015)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence

The petitioner father filed for divorce from the respondent mother and custody of their child.  After the birth of their child in 2007, the respondent left the matrimonial home without returning.  After over two years of absence, the petitioner filed for divorce.  The two elements of desertion are the actual absence of a spouse and their intent to abandon the union.  In this case, the respondent travelled internationally with the child at the petitioner’s expense and refused requests to move to Uganda once she obtained citizenship.  In 2011, she moved back to Uganda.  In 2012, the respondent requested an Islamic divorce, which she was granted, citing problems with the government of Saudi Arabia.  After the Islamic divorce, the parties continued to cohabitate with petitioner as the sole provider for the family, but the marriage was over.  Respondent moved to the United Kingdom for the child’s education and the petitioner paid the costs.  The petitioner also complained of physical assault, which he did not report to the police to protect his reputation.  He submitted documentation of his payments for living and education expenses, their marriage, the Islamic divorce, and his unanswered inquiries to respondent about their child.  The court agreed that these facts demonstrated an irretrievably broken marriage.  Citing the Children Act, which requires courts primarily consider the best interests of the child in custody determinations, the court granted custody of the child to the petitioner because the petitioner functioned as the sole provider for the family.



Kisingiri v. Uganda High Court at Kampala (2016)

Sexual violence and rape

The appellant was convicted of having carnal knowledge of a person against the order of nature (i.e., homosexual sex acts, in this case anal sexual intercourse) in violation of section 145 of the Penal Code Act.  On appeal, appellant’s counsel emphasized the State offered no evidence of penetration, that corroboration is necessary in cases of sexual offenses, and the compromised credibility of several material prosecution witnesses, including a complainant.  Four years before the trial when he was 17 or 18, the complainant testified that he went to the Appellant’s home for a party, which never happened.  Instead, the Appellant gave the complainant a glass of wine and the complainant blacked out.  The next thing he remembered was anal bleeding and seeing the defendant entering the room.  The complainant testified that he was too ashamed to ask what happened.  The following day went to the doctor, who told the complainant that it seemed that he had been sodomized and gave him medication.  The appellate judge agreed with the trial judge that this did not amount to direct evidence of a sexual act.  Four years later in 2013, the complainant told Reverend Solomon Male about the assault after hearing him on the radio.  The police then searched the appellant’s home where they found chloroform, which the complainant was not examined for at his 2009 doctor’s appointment.  Both the trial and appellate judges noted that the fact that the complainant did not tell any of his housemates about his bleeding or assault at the time cast doubt on his account.  While medical evidence is not required for sexual assault cases, the court here was concerned that it found no evidence at all of sexual assault.  The Court found that the trial judge erred in finding that the complainant’s failure to report the assault in 2009 was “a natural reaction” as a result of shame, especially because no psychologist or behavioral specialist testified at trial.  The appellate court quashed the defendant’s conviction and sentence after finding that the prosecution failed to prove the first element of the offense, penetration, beyond a reasonable doubt.  The appellate court also mentioned a key witness’, Pastor Solomon Male’s, publication of “malicious information of sodomy” against Ugandan pastor Robert Kayanja, which is a reference to an incident in which a boy who had accused Kayanja of sodomy withdrew his accusations and said that Male and several of his colleagues paid him and other boys to accuse the minister.  In that case, Male and his clergy colleagues were convicted of conspiring to destroy Kayanja’s name and professional reputation.



Uganda v. Akute AKA Ouma High Court at Arua Holden at Adjumani (2008)

Sexual violence and rape

The 38-year-old female complainant identified the defendant as the soldier who slapped her, tore her hair and clothes, and threatened her with a gun before repeatedly raping her in his truck from approximately 8:00 PM until 5:00 AM the next morning.  The defendant denied her claims, but two soldiers stationed near the assault corroborated her statements.  The judge, citing the complainant's demeanor and experience as a mother, believed the her testimony about the assault despite the lack of medical evidence.  The judge sentenced the defendant to seven years imprisonment in addition to the year already served.



Uganda v. Okiring High Court at Mbale (2011)

Sexual violence and rape

The complainant was carrying a bag of maize on the back of her bicycle.  When the bag fell off, the defendant and two of his colleagues offered to help.  Two then raped her and the third stole her bicycle.  They fled when a friend of the complainant came up the road on his motorcycle.  The victim recognized her attackers and identified them to the police.  She also went to the hospital for a medical examination.  The defendant denied the charges and claimed never to have seen the victim before court proceedings began.  The trial court found credible the complainant and the prosecution’s other corroborating witnesses, which included the complainant's male friend who found her immediately after the rapes, local council members, and police.  The Court made clear that the lack of medical evidence was not dispositive.  As a first time offender who had served over three years awaiting trial, the Court sentenced the defendant to an additional 18 months imprisonment.



Uganda v. Kusemererwa High Court at Fort Portal (2015)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

At issue in this case is the distinction between rape, simple defilement, and aggravated defilement in the Uganda Penal Code.  The crime of defilement, created in 1990, prohibits having or attempting sexual intercourse with a girl under 18 years of age and carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.  Defilement is considered aggravated if the girl is under 14 years old, the offender has HIV/AIDS, the offender is the victim’s parent or guardian, the girl has a disability, or the offender is a serial offender, and it carries a maximum penalty of death.  There is no consent requirement for defilement because children cannot consent to sexual intercourse.  The Penal Code section prohibiting rape describes it as “unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl without her consent” (emphasis added) or if consent is obtained through any force, threat, or intimidation.  The maximum penalty for rape is death.  The victim in this case was 16 when the defendant had unlawful carnal knowledge of her without her consent.  The defendant argued that he should be charged with simple defilement instead of rape because rape only applies to an adult woman who can give consent.  The State argued that the statutes give the State discretion to choose between the charges.  Citing other cases in which the State charged for rape instead of defilement because the defendant used excessive force, the State argued that this case the charge of rape was justified.  The Court found that these cases were decided before Parliament had fully settled the statutory details of rape, simple defilement, and aggravated defilement.  Now that the law is settled, the law does not allow rape charges for children because of the element of consent; unlawful sexual intercourse with children must be prosecuted as defilement.



Kalibobo v. Uganda Court of Appeal at Kampala (2001)

Gender-based violence in general, Sexual violence and rape

The trial court sentenced the 25-year-old Appellant to 17 years in prison after finding him guilty of raping a 70-year-old widow from a neighboring village.  The trial court rejected the defense that he was not in her village at the time of the rape.  The trial court found that in November 1998 the Appellant broke into the home of the victim, who confronted him with a panga (machete).  While raping her after disarming her, the victim called out and the Appellant, worried about being caught, fled with her panga.  The police found the panga in his home the next day and he was arrested.  The Appellant contested his sentence, arguing that it was manifestly harsh because he has a wife, two children, and two young brothers to care for.  The State contended that the sentence was appropriate because of the victim’s age and family circumstances.  The standard for appellate court interference is a sentence that is “manifestly excessive or low in view of the circumstances of the case.”  The Court noted that the crime of rape, particularly the rape of “grandmothers,” is prevalent in the area and very serious.  The Court held “[t]he appellant raped an old lady.  That was bad.  However, considering all the circumstances of the case, we think that a sentence of 17 years imprisonment was manifestly so excessive as to cause a miscarriage of justice” and reduced the sentence to seven years.  



Oloka-Onyango & 9 Others v. Attorney General Constitutional Court of Uganda (2014)

Gender discrimination

Petitioners sued, claiming the Speaker of Parliament allowed a vote to pass Anti-Homosexuality Act (“AHA”) of 2014 without the mandated quorum (alternatively “Coram”), which requires the presences of one-third of all voting Members of Parliament.  Petitioners also claimed the AHA was unconstitutional because it violated LGBTQ people’s right to privacy and freedom from cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment.  The Court held that the Petitioners demonstrated that the vote proceeded without the necessary quorum, which meant Petitioners prevailed without the Court reaching the issues regarding the substance of the AHA.



Nabagesera & 3 Others v. Attorney General & Another High Court at Kampala (2014)

Gender discrimination

Members of Freedom and Roam Uganda (“FARUG”) sued the Attorney General and Minister of Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo for violating their constitutional rights to freedom of assembly, right to participate in peaceful civil society activity, and right to equal treatment before the law.  In February 2012, Minister Lokodo personally appeared at and ordered closed down a FARUG-hosted “project planning, advocacy, human rights, leadership, and business skills” workshop in 2012 on the grounds that the workshop was an “illegal gathering of [h]omosexuals.”  The respondents argued that Uganda Penal Code (sec. 148) prohibits homosexual acts, which includes the prohibition of direct or indirect encouragement, incitement, and conspiracy to commit the offense.  Citing the Uganda Penal Code, Constitution of Uganda, and African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Court held that individual human rights are not absolute and may be restricted in the public interest as long as the restrictions do not amount to political persecution.  Calling the workshops “a pretext for human rights advocacy to promote homosexual acts which are prohibited by the Ugandan laws,” the Court rejected Applicants’ freedom of expression arguments because their activities constituted “offenses against morality” and “prejudicial to the public interest.”  In response to Applicants’ use of international human rights law, the Court held that Uganda’s “different laws and moral values” require different definitions and protections of the public interest than those cited in precedent from the UN, South Africa, the European Court of Human Rights, Hong Kong, etc.  The Court also rejected the suit against the Minister of Ethics and Integrity in his individual capacity because he was acting in his official capacity, meaning the Attorney General was the only proper respondent.



Yang Zheng Jun v. Uganda Court of Appeal at Kampala (2013)

Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

The Chinese accused was charged with aggravated trafficking in children, aggravated defilement, and simple defilement.  After the accused complained that his Chinese translator was not effectively communicating with him, the trial court judge canceled the accused’s bail and adjourned the proceedings until a replacement translator could be found.  The Appeals Court found that the trial court judge improperly revoked the accused’s bail application and ordered it reinstated.



Uganda v. Umutoni High Court at Kampala (International Crimes Division at Kololo) (2014)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

The accused was charged with human trafficking and aggravated child trafficking for transporting minor girls, who were promised supermarket jobs in Uganda, from Rwanda to Uganda for the purposes of forced unpaid household labor and prostitution.  The accused pleaded not guilty and maintained that she transported the girls to Uganda with their parents’ permission for a holiday.  The Court found her guilty of the charges related to two of the girls, but found that one of the girls was over the age of majority (19 years old).  The Court sentenced the accused to two concurrent terms of imprisonment: eight years for aggravated child trafficking and five years for trafficking in persons.  



Mifumi (U) Ltd. & Another v. Attorney General & Another Supreme Court (2015)

Gender discrimination

On appeal from the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Uganda held that the practice of asking for a bride price is constitutional but seeking a refund of the bride price as a precondition for the dissolution of a customary marriage is unconstitutional.  The Court did not agree with Appellants that bride prices promote inequality in marriage and hampers free consent to marry.  



Uganda v. Ogwang High Court at Soroti (2015)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The accused is charged with murdering his wife with a hoe.  The couple’s son lived nearby and heard his parents fighting.  He interrupted his parents’ fight and tried to stop it, but the accused grabbed a hoe and struck his wife in the head, which killed her.  The accused denied his son’s testimony and said his wife was attacked while out with him. The Court found the son’s testimony credible and rejected the accused’s statements.  The Court sentenced the accused to 40 years imprisonment.



Uganda v. Kamuhanda High Court at Fort Portal (2014)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The accused was charged with murdering his father.  The accused’s mother testified that her husband, the deceased, repeatedly physically abused his wife and children.  After a day of drinking, the deceased chased his wife and children out of the house.  The deceased’s wife went to see her older son, Muhwezi.  Muhwezi took his mother to the local council chairman, who took her to the police.  After the police refused to do anything, the deceased’s wife and children spent the night at the local council chairman’s home.  The deceased was found dead in the family home the next morning.  Muhwezi confessed that he argued with his father and killed him in self-defense.  The prosecutor requested at least 40 years imprisonment, but the Court, citing researched on the effects of long-term domestic violence, sentenced the accused to two years imprisonment.



Uganda v. Kennedy High Court at Nakawa (2014)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The accused pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering his wife after an hours-long fight.  Medical evidence showed that the victim died of blunt force trauma and “increased incranial pressure.”  Family members and friends testified to witnesses numerous instances of the accused committed violence against the victim.  Explaining that domestic violence is one of the most pressing societal problems in Uganda today, the judge sentenced the defendant to 30 years imprisonment.



Re Namugerwa & 2 Others High Court at Jinja (2010)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

The aunt of three children applied for guardianship of the children and the land they inherited following the death of their father.  The Court was unable to determine some critical information, including whether the children had a surviving parent and the source of the funds the aunt used to care for the children.  The Court was also concerned that the children’s mother might be alive and the automatic guardian, but that the aunt was chosen because she was related to the children’s male parent.  Under most customary community traditions in Uganda, being a paternal ancestor would give the aunt guardianship priority over the mother.  The Constitutional Court found these practices unconstitutional.



Uganda v. Katerega High Court at Kampala (2016)

Statutory rape or defilement

The accused pleaded not guilty to aggravated defilement for performing a sexual act with his 15-year-old daughter.  The judge found the accused guilty despite his denial because of DNA testing of the victim’s twin children, the testimony of the victim, and the testimony of a social worker.  In dicta before sentencing, the judge stated that African traditions must be upheld and American and European abhorrent practices like sodomy and homosexuality must be avoided.  The judge added that even these cultures reject incest.  Then the judge sentenced the defendant to 25 years, including four years subtracted for remand served.



Wanasolo v. Uganda High Court at Mbale (2015)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

Appellant, a school librarian, was accused of multiple instances of indecent assault, rape, and sodomy by several students.  At least one student accused the appellant of “grooming” him for homosexuality.  On appeal, the Court found that the trial court erred by dismissing the appellant’s evidence before he presented it, refusing to let him call witnesses, and allowing her biases to interfere with the appellant's right to a fair trial.  The High Court overturned the verdict and set aside the sentence.



Syson Muganga v. Uganda Court of Appeal at Kampala (2008)

Acid violence, Gender-based violence in general

The trial court found the appellant guilty of attempted murder for splashing acid on the female complainant.  The appellant allegedly knocked on the victim’s door on July 28, 2001, and splashed “a corrosive substance.”  The trial court relied on testimony from a security guard and the victim, who knew her attacker from school.  On appeal, the appellant argued that the trial judge erred in confirming the life imprisonment sentence.  The Court, after reviewing the testimony identifying the appellant, her motive, and the “vulnerable parts of the victim’s body” that were burned, found that the life sentence was reasonable for the “outrageously despicable and sadistic act.”



Uganda v. Kafuruka High Court at Mbarara (2006)

Gender discrimination

The defendant injected a young woman with the intention to administer an abortion.  The woman and her fetus died.  The Court found the defendant guilty of murder of the deceased because the defendant had the intent to kill the fetus.  The Court reasoned that the intent to abort the fetus was sufficient to establish the mens rea element of murder.



Uganda v. Apunyo High Court at Lira (2004)

Statutory rape or defilement

The defendant paid for his girlfriend’s abortion and hospital expenses for the ensuing complications, after which the girlfriend’s mother discovered their sexual relationship.  The mother reported to the police that the defendant had sexual intercourse with her 17-year-old daughter, a violation of section 129(1) of the Penal Code Act Revised Laws of Uganda.  The Court found that the prosecutor did not prove the girl’s age beyond a reasonable doubt because they did not provide a birth certificate and the alleged victim believed and had previously stated that she was 19 years old. 



Mushabe Abdul v. Uganda Court of Appeals of Uganda (2007)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

Appellant was convicted of defilement of a four-year-old girl. The victim was sent to a well to fetch water for her family. On the victim’s way to the well, appellant grabbed the victim, threw her to the ground, and forcibly had sexual intercourse with her. He then fled but was later arrested. At trial, appellant denied the charges and claimed that the victim’s father had framed him. The trial court rejected his claim and sentenced him to 14 years imprisonment. On appeal, appellant requested a sentence reduction from 14 years to eight years. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal, holding that the 14-year sentence was not inappropriate or excessive, and that, in light of the circumstances, there was no reason to reduce the sentence.



Tumwesigye Kasim v. Uganda Court of Appeals of Uganda (2009)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

This appeal was limited to sentencing only. Appellant was convicted of defilement of a six-year-old girl and was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment. Appellant was a teacher at the victim’s school. The school held a special program for students during school holidays. During this program, appellant took the victim into his office at school and had sexual intercourse with her. Despite his warning not to tell anyone, the victim told her brother, who told her parents. A medical examiner confirmed that she had been defiled. On appeal, appellant argued that the sentence of 14 years was too harsh. In support, he argued that he was the sole breadwinner for 11 dependents, including two lame dependents and four orphans. Appellant also argued that since the victim was a very young child, she had already gotten over the trauma of the defilement. The court upheld the sentence and ruled against appellant. The court found that, as a teacher, he had a duty to protect the victim, but instead chose to ravish her, disgracing himself, his profession, and society.



Julius Rwabinumi v. Hope Bahimbisomwe Court of Appeals of Uganda (2008)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage

A husband appealed from a divorce proceeding ordering that the divorcing parties share various properties accumulated during the marriage (Ground No. 4). He contended that his wife (the respondent) had no right to such property because she did not produce evidence to prove her contribution to the acquisition of such property. The issues are whether there is an established legal formula for division of property after divorce, and whether spousal contribution plays a role in such division. After reviewing the traditional approach accounting for spousal contribution, the court found that the enactment of the 1995 Constitution drastically changed the wife’s legal position and rights after divorce. Specifically, Article 31(1) provides equal rights to husband and wife during marriage and dissolution. Thus, the court found that marital property jointly belonged to the husband and wife, and thus contribution to the property is irrelevant. Notwithstanding the parties’ right to freely contract prior to a marriage agreement, the court found that, upon dissolution, matrimonial property ought to be divided equally and shared “to the extent possible and practicable”.



Law & Advocacy for women in Uganda v. Attorney General Constitutional Court of Uganda (2010)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Harmful traditional practices

Petitioners challenged the tribal practice of female genital mutilation and argued that it is inconsistent with the Ugandan Constitution. They argued that the practice is cruel, inhuman, and degrading, and endangers the right to life and privacy under the Constitution. The two issues before the court were whether the petition raised any matter for constitutional interpretation and whether the practice of female genital mutilation should be declared as null and void under the constitution. At trial, petitioners produced unchallenged affidavits supporting the fact that female genital mutilation was practiced crudely, wantonly, and without anesthesia, causing permanent damage and trauma to the victim, including incontinence, paralysis, and even death. The court first held that the petition did raise serious questions for constitutional interpretation. Second, the court held that, while the Constitution protects free exercise of cultural or religious custom, such exercise must not infringe on human dignity or the right to be free from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Thus, the court held that female genital mutilation was inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution, and thus declared the custom void.



Sabwe Abdu v. Uganda Supreme Court of Uganda (2010)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

Appellant was convicted of defilement of a girl less than 18 years old and was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. Trial testimony established that while the 13-year-old girl and her younger sister were fetching water at a well, appellant, disguised as a ghost, ordered the two to remove their dresses, blindfolded them, and led them through a swamp to some bush where he had sexual intercourse with the older sister. He then left the sisters in the bush overnight, and the sisters’ father was unable to find them. Appellant then went to the father’s house and told him that he could use his witchcraft powers to find the sisters if the father paid him two goats and two chickens. Upon payment, appellant went back to the brush and brought the sisters to his home, claiming that they needed treatment. While at Appellant’s home, the older sister told her father that appellant had raped her. At trial, the court rejected appellant’s defense that a ghost had abducted the sisters and he was merely using his witchcraft powers to help find the girls. Instead, the court relied on the sisters’ testimony, who claimed that they recognized appellant’s voice. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction and sentence. First, the court found that appellant lived only a quarter mile away from the sisters and used to come to their home and speak to their father, thus supporting the assertion that the sisters were able to identify appellant through voice recognition. Second, the court found that appellant’s witchcraft defense could not be reasonably believed and that the fact that he immediately located the sisters upon payment supported the inference that he was the one who brought them there.



Sekandi Hassan v. Uganda Supreme Court of Uganda (2007)

Acid violence, Domestic and intimate partner violence

Appellant was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The deceased, a 16-year-old girl, lived with her mother and brother. For approximately a year, the deceased would sneak out and have sexual intercourse with appellant, a married man who lived approximately 200 meters away from the deceased. A week before the incident, the deceased told her mother that appellant had impregnated her. This greatly displeased her mother, and she reported this to LCs officials. On the night of the incident, the deceased’s mother noticed appellant at her residence before appellant and the deceased left for the night. The next morning, the deceased was found lying by the side of the road about one mile from her home. She was in critical condition and had severe acid burns. Unable to speak, she wrote her information on a piece of paper, including her name and the name of the person who brought her to her location (appellant). She died later that day, and a medical examiner found the cause of death to be severe burns and pulmonary edema. Appellant was later arrested and convicted. He appealed the conviction, arguing that the conviction rested on weak circumstantial evidence and that his alibi deserved re-evaluation. On appeal, the Supreme Court ruled against appellant. They found that the case against appellant relied on the credibility of the deceased’s mother and brother, who, due to proximity and prior acquaintance, knew appellant very well. The court also found that the fact that the deceased’s mother was pursuing actions against appellant gave him a motive for the murder, so as to avoid a possible defilement charge. In sum, the court held that there was ample evidence to convict appellant over his alibi and hence dismissed the appeal.



Sgt. Canbera Dickson v. Uganda Court of Appeals of Uganda (2010)

Sexual violence and rape

This is an appeal challenging a rape conviction and sentencing of 15 years imprisonment. Appellant, an army sergeant, went to a village and used a gun to murder his maternal uncle. On the same day, he led his victim, a widow of appellant’s late brother, to an abandoned house and raped her at gunpoint. Three days later, the victim reported the incident and was medically examined. Because she recently had a baby, the medical examiner was unable to find any physical damage to her body. Appellant appeals on two main grounds: (1) without medical proof of penetration, the victim’s accusation requires corroboration to stand; (2) the sentence of 15 years was excessive. On appeal, the court accepted the prosecution’s argument that, because the victim was a new mother and was being held at gunpoint, it was very unlikely that she would have been physically damaged from the penetration or struggle. The court also followed prior precedent that held that, in certain criminal cases, corroboration was not necessary for a conviction. Concerning sentencing, the court also agreed with the prosecution. The court found that appellant had been given a gun by the military to protect the people of Uganda, but instead appellant used that gun to terrorize and rape the victim. Because of those circumstances, the court refused to be lenient, but rather increased appellant’s sentence to 25 years.



Mugasa Joseph v. Uganda Court of Appeal of Uganda (2010)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

This appeal was limited to sentencing only. Appellant was convicted of defilement of a baby girl and was sentenced to 17 years imprisonment. Appellant was a relative of the child and was known as a teacher of Christianity. Appellant requested a more lenient sentence of 10 years. The Court of Appeals ruled against Appellant and increased his sentence to 25 years, citing the policy consideration that, despite the fact that defilement can be punishable by death, individuals still continue to defile babies. Thus, the court used this case as an opportunity to send a message to society that “violating the rights of child females must stop.”



Uganda Association of Women Lawyers and 5 Others v. The Attorney General Constitutional Court of Uganda (2004)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Gender discrimination

The petitioners sued to have several provisions of the Divorce Act declared void on the grounds that they discriminated on the basis of sex.  The Court held that sections 4, 5, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 26 of the Divorce Act are void in so far as they discriminate on the basis of gender, so the grounds for divorce as listed are available to both sexes and the compensation for adultery, costs against a co-respondent, alimony, and settlement are applicable to both sexes.