Uganda gender-based violence policy hub
This hub provides key facts about gender-based violence (GBV) in Uganda.
Gathering and updating this information will help to inform our own research in the area and, over time, influence policy to help reduce GBV. It will also help to inform the None in Three game aimed at young people in Uganda. For more information and references, download our policy briefing sheet.
This Policy Brief is drawn from qualitative research carried out in 2018 in Uganda, by the None in Three Research Centre Uganda. The research involved in-depth interviews with 45 survivors of child marriage and gender-based violence and focus groups with men and youth (including convicted perpetrators of violence) as well as members of the community.
Timeline of Uganda’s most important legislation related to gender-based violence
The Children Act Chapter 59 – An Act to reform and consolidate the law relating to children; to provide for the care, protection and maintenance of children; to provide for local authority support for children; to establish a family and children court; to make provision for children charged with offences and for other connected purposes.
The Uganda Gender Policy (Amendment) – The policy gives a clear mandate to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and other Line Ministries to mainstream gender in all sectors. It sets priority areas of action at the National, Sectoral, District and Community levels with all levels of planning, resource allocation and implementation of development programs redressing gender imbalances and acting with a gender perspective.
Article 123 of the Penal Code Act Chapter 120 (Punishment for Rape) – The Act provides a definition of rape and states that any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl without her consent committed rape.
Domestic Violence Act– An Act to provide for the protection and relief of victims of domestic violence; to provide for the punishment of perpetrators of domestic violence; to provide for the procedure and guidelines to be followed by the court in relation to the prosecution and compensation of victims of domestic violence; to provide for the jurisdiction of court; to provide for her enforcement of orders made by the court; to empower the family and children court to handle cases of domestic violence and for related matters.
Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act – An Act to provide for the prohibition of female genital mutilation, the offences, prosecution and punishment of offenders and the protection of victims as well as girls and women under threat of female genital mutilation and to provide for other related matters.
The Children (Amendment) Act – An Act to amend the Children Act Cap. 59 to enhance the protection of children; to strengthen the provision for guardianship of children; to strengthen the conditions for inter-country adoption; to prohibit corporal punishment; to provide for the National Children Authority, repeal the National Council for Children Act, Cap. 60 and to provide for other related matters.
Located in East-Central Africa, Uganda has a population of approximately 34.9 million. Uganda is currently classed as a low income nation according to the World Bank, with an average annual growth rate of 3.03%.
- It is estimated that 51% of women in Uganda will experience violence in their lifetime, suggesting that violence against women is rampant in the country. This statistic is well above the average in Africa and worldwide, making Uganda one of the most dangerous places in the world for women.
- 56% of women in Uganda aged 15-49 reported having experienced physical violence while 22% had experienced sexual violence at least once since the age of 15 years.
Gender equality indices
Gender Inequality Index (GII) measures gender inequalities between women and men in three important areas: reproductive health, empowerment, and economic status. Values range from 0 to 1, with higher values indicating more disparities between the genders. Uganda’s current GII index is 0.531. Comparable scores are currently held by Burundi (0.520), Zimbabwe (0.525), Gabon (0.534), and Bangladesh (0.536).
Uganda’s gender inequality index 2020
Uganda’s global gender gap index (GGGI)
Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI) assesses gender gaps on economic, political, education, and health criteria. Values range from 0 to 1, with lower values indicating more disparities between the genders. According to the Global Rankings Report 2020, Uganda’s GGGI is 0.717 (rank 65 out of 153 countries), which is a substantial fall compared with the previous report published in 2018 (rank change = -22). Of the four dimensions included in the GGGI, the highest rank for Uganda was recorded on health and survival (score: 0.980, rank: 1), followed by political empowerment (score: 0.309, rank: 35), and economic participation and opportunity (score: 0.663, rank: 82). Uganda’s ranked the lowest on educational attainment (score: 0.914, rank: 129). Compared with 2018, Uganda lost at least several ranks on all indicators except for health and survival.
Gender-based violence (GBV):
Uganda is one of the most dangerous places in the world for women.
- 56% of women in Uganda aged 15-49 report having experienced physical violence
- 22% had experienced sexual violence at least once since the age of 15 years
- In 2011, 65% of women suffered domestic violence
The notion of domestic violence is relatively new and largely unknown to Ugandan society, with many citizens believing the term refers to the most serious cases where severe physical injury is sustained. Other barriers to victims accessing help include stigmatisation and a lack of responsiveness of mostly male police officers (Women’s Rights in Uganda, 2012).
Anti-women cultural practices in Uganda also include female genital mutilation (FGM), forced first sexual intercourse, monitoring and control by spouses, and widow inheritance. The Uganda country assessment conducted in 2015 by UNDP found that wife battering is widely accepted, with 58% of women and 44% of men believing that it is justified for a man to beat his wife for any one of five specified reasons (OECD, 2014). Violence against women if often justified by paying a bride price; women are treated as the property of men.
Uganda has a long history of civil war and continues to face ongoing internal conflict. Military violence in Northern Uganda contributed to women experiencing rape and associated health consequences. According to the Annual Crime Report (Uganda Police Force, 2014), defilement is the third most common crime reported to the police. Moreover, the conviction rate for rape and defilement cases stands at 0.8% and 1.8% respectively.
Gender-based violence affecting children
Responding to Gender-based violence
To address the high rates of GBV, in the last few years, sector-specific legal reforms have been put in place including:
- the 2010 law on Domestic Violence and the 2011 Domestic Violence regulations
- the anti-Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2010
- the anti-trafficking in Persons Act of 2009
- the Equal Opportunities Commission Act in 2007
- the National Action Plan on Women (NAPW) of 2007 – however, there was no indication as to who would finance its implementation.
Between 2007 and 2012, the annual budget of Uganda allocated $50,000 per annum (approximately 0.001% of the total budget) to address violence against women. In August 2016, the Cabinet approved the Elimination of Gender Based Violence policy for Uganda. The policy mandates that the government should allocate resources for the implementation of GBV laws, such as the Domestic Violence Act 2010. Uganda ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1985.
Uganda’s strategy to end GBV and achieve gender equality:
The Second National Development Plan (NDPII) 2015/16 – 2019/20 has been developed to transform Uganda, in line with the aspirations of Uganda’s Vision 2040 (“A Transformed Ugandan Society from a Peasant to a Modern and Prosperous Country within 30 years”). This Plan aims at strengthening Uganda’s competitiveness for sustainable wealth creation, employment and inclusive growth. It prioritises investment in five areas, including (1) agriculture, (2) tourism, (3) minerals, oil, and gas, (4) infrastructure development, and (5) human capital development. The attainment of gender equality and women empowerment is conceptualised as a prerequisite for accelerated socioeconomic transformation. Although Uganda has made a significant progress in the area, women continue to face constraints related to access to, control over and ownership of businesses and productive resources. There is also limited employment of women in skill-based industries and women are marginalised in skills development, access to financial resources, and inheritance rights. To address the above, the Plan lists the following goals: (1) end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere; (2) ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life; (3) enhance the use of enabling technologies, in particular information and communications technology (ICT), to promote women’s empowerment; (4) undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance, and natural resources in accordance with national laws.
The National Strategy to end Child Marriage 2014/2015 – 2019/2020 is a holistic, comprehensive framework that reflects the commitment of the Uganda Government to end the practice of child marriage and other forms of violence against girls. The goal of the strategy is to end child marriage in Uganda for enduring prosperity and social economic transformation. One of the strategic areas of focus is on changing communities’ mind-sets, knowledge, aspirations, behaviours, and social norms that drive child marriage and teenage pregnancies. It also hinges on the principle of protection, i.e., children should be protected from all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation, including harmful practices. In design of programmes and interventions to address child marriage, all stakeholders should be aware that child marriage is often associated with violence, abuse, and confinement; and integrate mitigating components. Overall implementation of the strategy will involve multiple stakeholders involving government, development partners, and civil society organisations.
In 2017, the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development published the National Male Involvement Strategy for the Prevention and Response to Gender Based Violence in Uganda. This Strategy was developed to encourage and support men and boys to take responsibility for their sexual and reproductive behavior and to abstain from all forms of discrimination against women and girls. The specific objectives include: (1) To guide the development and/or review of GBV policies and programmes to integrate interventions on male involvement; (2) To promote transformation of harmful gender norms and practices that perpetuate GBV; (3) To provide guidance on provision of male-friendly services to male victims of GBV; (4) To raise awareness among male GBV duty bearers to provide gender sensitive GBV services; (5) To promote strategic partnerships in engaging men and boys in prevention and response to GBV; (6) To strengthen research and documentation to enable evidence-based intervention on male involvement in prevention and response to GBV.
GBV in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda:
The introduction of social distancing and lockdown-type, stay-at-home measures has resulted in conditions conducive to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of the most vulnerable members of the society. Those who are abused by family members, often have little or no access to the usual routes of escape. As such, the world has witnessed a surge in domestic violence cases since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (Lindgärde & Houinato, 2020; Townsend, 2020). Although Ugandan police reports show that, as of the 31st March 2020, there were 5 fatalities as a result of domestic violence during the lockdown, the magnitude of the effect of the pandemic on domestic violence will become clearer once the lockdown-type measures have been lifted. In recognising the need to prioritise the well-being of women and children during the pandemic, the Uganda Women Lawyers Association (FIDA-U) started a petition calling upon the Uganda Government to integrate measures to address violence against women and children into their responses to COVID-19. In addition, António Guterres, the United Nations (UN) secretary-general, said: “I urge all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19” (see Fang, 2020).