Uganda’s first-ever stand-alone National Survey on Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG), conducted by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) and supported by UN Women’s Women Count programme in 2020, has informed several pieces of legislation now before Parliament. The findings have also spurred action to increase timely access to justice, monitor budget allocations for VAWG prevention, and to improve data collection, management, and dissemination.
Among the shocking survey findings were that almost all Ugandan women and girls (95%) had experienced physical or sexual violence, or both, by partners or non-partners since the age of 15.
“These data have informed policies and draft legislation,” asserts Sandra Heather, Programme Officer for the Ugandan Women’s Parliamentary Association (UWOPA), which convenes over 200 Members of Parliament (MPs). “And we’ve seen progress on these laws on the floor of Parliament.”
She cites the rehashed version of a Sexual Offences Bill being introducing this November, which specifically seeks to address the kinds of sexual violence women and girls reported in the survey.
The original bill faced backlash from MPs arguing that some aspects existed in other laws, which should be amended instead. So, UWOPA will simultaneously use the survey data to pressure the Government to table Penal Code amendments and argue for any necessary changes at committee stage.
“Some aspects of the Domestic Violence Act, Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, and Female Genital Mutilation Act have also become outdated, especially in light of technology and international best practices, and therefore need to be amended,” explains Heather. “The [VAWG survey] data gave us actionable information to address disparities in these laws.”
UWOPA also used the findings to lobby for a Marriage Bill introduced in 2020 but fine-tuned and reintroduced as a Private Members’ Bill in July 2022. Among other things, it proposes an end to child marriage and bride prices and ensure other rights.
The survey also survey found that violence in the workplace was affecting many Ugandan women – 86% in the previous 12 months. An Employment Amendment Bill, which proposes sexual harassment policies in the workplace, was thus reintroduced in Parliament in February of 2022. Currently at the committee stage, the bill is expected to pass its second reading soon.