The role of morality in legal and policy development processes; where should we draw the line?

By Annah Kukundakwe -an advocate for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Advocate and Program officer at the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development.

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni recently noted in his Speech during the NRM Liberation day on 26th January 2021 said people should leave their religious beliefs at home and not carry them to office. I am not sure what motivated him to take this stance, but in my case, i am motivated by the fact that the morality whip that is mainly wielded by religious leaders and members of their congregation, has proven to be untenable. Those that have been the protectors of the moral fabric of society have also many times found themselves has falling victim to this moral policing.


A policy is a course or principle of action adopted by government or the executive to guide decisions and achieve rational outcome. And Policy-making is the act or process of setting and directing the course of action to be pursued by a government, business or organization. The policy making
process entails various phases including stakeholder consultations aimed at building consensus around the policy proposals and developing solutions which will work and gain acceptance in practice.
Among the stakeholders engaged in the policy development process are religious groups who continue to be given a bigger and better platform for consultative processes. Their views on any given policy is given priority and in some cases, the views have been seen to derail or stay discussions about development of policies and laws pertaining to critical issues including social, health and even human rights. A case in point is the National Sexuality Education framework, whose implementation and operationalization has been delayed since its launch in 2018, the SRHR policy guidelines and service standards, including those for addressing maternal mortality due to unsafe abortion (2015) that were recalled and disowned by the government and the continuous failure of the Marriage and Divorce Bill to move beyond the floor of Uganda’s parliament.


Over the years the fate of Ugandans especially women and young people has been left to be decided by religious groups even in cases where decisions that could impact health and life are concerned. However,
the recent happenings in the church, including where they have been rocked by scandals calls for a review of whether religious leaders’ views really ought to count in matters of health and people’s wellbeing
The 1995 constitution recognizes Uganda as a Secular state. Besides the fact that Uganda is described as a state, the desired approach of managing public affairs, should prompt us to question this unfettered authority that religious leaders and other moral groups enjoy in public policy processes.

In my view, the reason why religious groups have enjoyed unchecked reign over the different aspects of people’s lives is because these groups and the institutions have been protected by the dogma of infallibility. There is a belief that they cannot do wrong including on moral grounds. There are also other issues that have consolidated their hold and importance of their opinions on all aspects of life. These include aspects such as owning majority of private schools and health care facilities in the country in comparison to any other group in the country. Noteworthy is also the history of this country where there has been a strong interconnection between the church and state. It is this moral authority that they wield and use as a bargaining chip and in some cases even emotional blackmail in discussions where there are technical people and data that indicates a contrary approach should be adopted.

The impact of these stayed policies, laws and interventions are not an end in themselves as they have far reaching effects on the lives of Uganda’s citizens. For instance, owing to moral objections on young people’s exercise of their agency regarding their sexual reproductive health and rights via an enabling policy, legal and service environment, young people continue to grapple with challenges regarding their sexual and reproductive health because they are unable to receive information on the same.


This has had far reaching impact on their lives like school dropout and loss of lives. Women also continue to die due to preventable causes like unsafe abortion. There is no doubt that Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) continue to be among the most controversial and contentious topics in Uganda’s legal, policy, and social environments. This is in part due
to religious debates. SRHR issues like family planning, sexuality education, adolescent health, teenage pregnancies, unsafe abortion, maternal mortality and morbidity, gender-based violence, sexual abuse and child marriages, continue to constitute a serious public health and human rights threats to women and young people.
I implore the newly elected MPs and persons in the various key ministries to endeavor to steer clear of moral shackles when developing public policies or when passing laws to regulate public and social issues. There is no doubt that people are entitled to their moral and religious beliefs, however, given the subjective nature of these, it is unfair for these parameters to be applied across a wide spectrum of issues that affect
persons from different social, geographical, economic and even religious backgrounds. This means that from the offset, there is an unleveled playfield and an attempt to level this playing field via law and policy
based on among others on subjective moral standards is erroneous. Let us look to data and science to cure the ills that plague our country, that way our development goals will remain relevant and attainable.

A version of this article was published in the Daily Monitor Newspaper on 10th March 2021 pg 15.

Call for Case Studies on Emerging Issues of Social Accountability in Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic within East and South African Countries

The Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) under the PAI – COPASAH partnership invites submissions for case studies on practices and emerging issues of social accountability during the COVID-19 pandemic within the Eastern and Southern Africa region from practitioners on accountability and social action in Health. The case studies should document, showcase and highlight best practices, successes, challenges, lessons learned and innovations towards the practice of social accountability in the health sector during COVID-19.

Application instructions;

Eligible individuals or organisations can submit a write-up of Ten (10) pages maximum. This writeup should include: an introduction about yourself or organisation, areas of focus, constituencies you work with, the problem or issue and a methodology/approach/mechanism you have used as a social accountability practitioner during COVID-19 and lessons leant.

These case studies should be submitted to info@cehurd.org and copy muhumuza@cehurd.org. The application deadline is 15th March, 2021 at 23:59 EAT. A panel of reviewers will evaluate the cases studies and select the best four case studies to be awarded a grant of Two Thousand Five Hundred United States Dollars (USD 2500).

See download for details;

Zero discrimination starts with you!

By Precious Tricia Abwooli -CEHURD

Today, 1st March 2021, we celebrate the zero-discrimination day. This year’s theme is directed towards zero discrimination against women and girls and the need to promote global equality and empowerment.  According to the 2012 World Bank’s World Development Indicators, “women form the majority of the world’s poorest people and the number of women living in rural poverty has increased by 50% since 1975. Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours and produce half of the world’s food, yet they earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property”.[1]

Several efforts have been made to fight discrimination against women and girls overtime. These include several international, regional and national laws, conventions and policies. For instance, article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) tasks state parties “to take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women.” Indeed, several state parties have done so, for example Uganda that in 2015 enacted a law eradicating the practice of female genital mutilation.

Nevertheless, discriminatory laws against women and girls persevere globally. They are coupled with traditions that portray them as second-class citizens and are evident across different sectors like health, education, marital rights, employment rights, property rights and more. A case in point is Uganda’s Divorce Act.

While sometimes a picture is painted depicting achievement of gender equality currently, it is likely due to technological developments that give increased visibility to women’s successes and ignores the discriminatory issues. Discrimination not only devastates lives of the women and girls and divides communities, but also undermines development efforts and the building of strong democracies. It locks women and girls into poverty, limits their right of choice and their ability to access education, earn a living and participate in political and public life.  Therefore, it is critical to increase women and girls’ participation in decision making. It is also important to focus on eradication of cultures and traditions that are discriminatory against women and girls. In Uganda’s case, Parliament needs to prioritize laws that promote non-discrimination against women and girls, particularly through revision of laws that do the opposite.


[1] http://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/820851467992505410/pdf/102114-REVISED-PUBLIC-WBG-Gender-Strategy.

We are hiring!

The Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) currently has a number of exciting career opportunities. The ideal candidates should have commitment to work with a dynamic organisation working on issues of health and human rights. The selected candidates bring their professional skillsets and work with CEHURD’s programmes and/or departments. The candidates will contribute towards the organisation’s strategic plan. The candidates should clearly indicate which of the three positions below they are applying for.

The Positions

Programme Specialist – Health and Human Rights Advocacy: The Programme Specialist, Health and Human Rights Advocacy is responsible for effective, efficient and impactful design and implementation of CEHURD’s advocacy strategy. He/ She will provide expertise in advocacy across all CEHURD’s programmes and departments. He/ She will be required to steer CEHURD’s activities regarding Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and other emerging issues in health and social justice and align them with the approved advocacy agenda. The incumbent will work with CEHURD staff in finalising the advocacy strategy and designing appropriate advocacy tools and methodologies. He/she will participate in identifying impactful delivery mediums, as well as targeted publics and partnerships with the aim of fulfilling CEHURD’s advocacy goals and objectives.

Programme Specialist – Community Health And Empowerment: The Programme Specialist, Community Health and Empowerment is responsible for effective, efficient and impactful design of CEHURD’s community engagements and ensuring that they meet the organisation’s strategic objectives and advocacy agenda. He/she will lead and provide expertise in programme design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of outcomes. He/She will lead the process of continuously identifying strategic ways of popularising district and community activities amongst different stakeholders, as well as uplifting national level decisions to community and vice versa.

Programme Associate- Strategic Litigation: The Programme Associate will work under the Strategic Litigation Programme and will be responsible for performing the tasks listed in the job description towards supporting the litigation of human rights cases by CEHURD.

To apply

If you believe you are the ideal candidate, please deliver your Curriculum Vitae, Copies of your academic documents and a cover letter to:

The Human Resources Manager
Center for Health, Human Rights and Development
Plot 4008, Justice Road, Canaan Sites, Nakwero
Gayaza – Kalagi Road

OR Email your application to: info@cehurd.org with a copy to matovu@cehurd.org
The closing date for the receipt of applications is 1st December, 2020. Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted.