There is need to strengthen laws that deal with sex-related offences

By Betty Iyamuremye

Sex-related offences have continued to increase countrywide despite several interventions. According to the 2012 Annual Crime and Traffic Safety report, defilement, rape, incest and unnatural offences are on the increase.

At least 8,076 defilement cases were registered the past year compared to 7,690 reported in 2011.
The Uganda Demographic Health Survey 2011 also indicates that 56 per cent of women between 15-49 years experience physical violence while 28 per cent experience sexual violence every year.

Defilement remains the leading sex related crime reported in the country with a total of 7,690 cases according to the Police Crime Report 2011 compared to 7,564 cases in 2010 despite the amendment of the Penal Code Act and the coming into force of the Domestic ViolDefilement remains the leading sex related crimeence Act 2010.

In Uganda, sexual offences take different forms. There are offences against children which include – defilement, aggravated defilement, failure to disclose offence of defilement for economic gain, child-to-child sex, householder permitting defilement, defilement or rape before a child, supply of sexual content and material to a child, incest, incest of a child, child prostitution and child pornography.

There are also sexual offences against adults which include but not limited to – rape, aggravated rape, attempt to commit rape, administering substance for purpose of committing a sexual act, sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual offences relating to position of authority and persons in position of trust, sexual act with a person incapable of giving consent, detention with sexual intent, person living on earnings of prostitution, prohibition of prostitution, exploitation of prostitution, unnatural offences, attempt to commit unnatural offences and indecent practices and acts.

Efforts such as Sexual Offences (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2000, the draft Private Members Bill, 2012 on sexual related offences have been pursued to amend the provisions of various enactments on sexual offences, procedural and evidential requirements during trial of sexual offences and for other related matters.

The two pieces of legislation seek to consolidate laws relating to sexual offences, combating sexual violence, providing for punishment of perpetrators of sexual offenses, providing for procedural and evidential requirements during trial of sexual offences and other related matters.

However, both processes of amendments and presentation of the Private Members Bill have been delayed due to various social and political barriers though the two institutions have been seen working tirelessly to ensure that sexual offences are reduced and the victims are compensated and justice is sought through existing legislation such as the Domestic Violence Act 2010, Defilement Act 2007, which are apparently not sufficient enough to suffice for the rampant forms of defilement and rape predispositions.

It is commendable to witness collaborations of different stakeholders in particular; the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and Civil Society Organisations who continue to work tirelessly to hasten the process of amendments relating to sexual offences since the present legal framework is not responsive to the current criminal trends of sexual offenses.

However, this coalition should lobby through different wings of power to ensure that the Penal Code Act Amendment Bill, 2012 (that also covers the Sexual Offences Bill amendments as annexes), is prioritised before the Cabinet since the government amendments not only cover offence specifically but also seek to amend sections on evidence under the Magistrates Court and the High Court which has deflated proceedings in courts while dealing with sexual related offences.
This may finally bring a ray of hope to perpetually deal with sexual-related crimes in Uganda, though institutions like police, LCs, should also be strengthened to ably deal with sexual related crimes.