Public shaming of women; an issue of Violence against Women!

Public shaming of women; an issue of Violence against Women!

On the evening of 11th July 2019, the public was startled by a confrontational sermon by Pastor Bugingo of House of prayers ministries that went viral on different social media platforms. In the sermon, the renowned pastor shamed his ex-wife and mother of his children over a disease she had had for close to ten years while the congregation cheered on. This unfortunately is a buildup on many other stories that are left in passing and continue to be normalized in Uganda today.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Violence against Women (VAW) as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.  Violence against Women takes different forms including; Intimate partner violence which may be physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; forced and early marriages; female genital mutilation and trafficking. In Uganda today, Violence against Women is reported as remaining on the high with more than 51 percent of women experiencing physical violence where intimate partners are reported as the largest number of perpetuators at 60 percent (Uganda Demographic and Health Survey of 2016 reported).

While different players are key in fighting the vice of public shaming of women, the state has the obligation to protect women from these violations as indicated under section 128 (3) of the Penal Code Act, Cap 120 that clearly stipulates  that “any person who, intending to insult the modesty of any woman or girl, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen by such woman or girl, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman or girl, commits a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for one year.” Furthermore, section 179 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 120 states that “any person who by print, writing, painting, effigy or by any means otherwise than solely by gestures, spoken words or other sounds, unlawfully punishes any defamatory matter concerning another person, with intent to defame that other person, commits the misdemeanor termed libel.”

Public shaming of women can never become the new normal as it’s not only a violation of human rights but also has grave effects on survivors (psychological consequences, vulnerabilities to diseases), children (injuries to children) and society (added health care costs).  

Joselyn Nakyeyune

Program Officer, Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD).


It is mid-year now and children are in school for their second term, parents have paid school fees and some are completing the school fees balances. However there are some students who have not reported this term, for being pregnant, stigma or acquired diseases and some were expelled due to sexual violence accessioned to them while at school.

Some of these Children are below the age of 18 years, therefore they cannot consent to any sexual act or violence, in law, this is termed as defilement. In Uganda this vice is on rise especial in school, where teachers and their support staff continuously sexually abuse young girls placed under their care.

In the report or study of ministry of Education and sports, clearly indicated that 69.1 of children in private schools have been defiled by their teachers. If the said children do don’t drop out of schools, their performance declines because of psychological torture, stigma hence poor grades.Mostof these children are in boarding schools where their parents placed them under the care of school authorities.

Article 34(1) of the Constitution of the republic of Uganda gives the parents and school authority a constitution right to care for the children under their care. This has not been the case where many children are sexually  abuse in the school premises, sometimes children are silenced which affect them physiologically, emotional, leading to low grades or performance  which fact the teachers and parents in most cases do not realized in  early days.

 Under Article 34(4) of the Constitution of the republic of Uganda, provides that children are entitled to be protected from social or economic exploitation …’ Many Schools have failed to protect young girls while at school from being sexually abused, this is mainly because of system gaps, which ministry of education has continuously failed to regulate.

Further Ministry of Education has not put in place any mechanism of helping the young girls receive psycho social support or made any effort to follow up that these girls who have been sexually abused while at school are supported to continue with their education, and or are compensated by the school authority and the perpetrator.

 Under Article 34 (2) requires the State responsibility for children to receive basic education, by its failure to supervise both private and government schools to improve school environment which leads to sexual violation is a clear indicator of the government’s role and responsibility to see to it that all children get the basic education.

The Government’s failure to punish school authorities where this vice is found has  led to the wide spread of the same leading to many girls get un wanted pregnancy, school drop outs , HIV/ AIDS , low or poor performance .

In Conclusion, this is a call to all school authorities and the government to create an environment where children under their care are protected from any abuse for their well being, growth and better performance.

By Ms. Namaganda Jane

Program Associate at Center for Health, Human rights and Development (CEHURD).

Has the Government and the Judiciary failed to protect the women against the increasing maternal deaths?

For the preceding eight years, CEHURD (Center for Health, Human Rights and Development) a company limited by guarantee and established under the Laws of Uganda, has brawled tooth and nail to ensure that the government is accountable for its mandate under the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, as amended. In 2011, the organization filed a public interest case in the Constitutional court under Constitutional petition 16 of 2011 questioning the multiple maternal deaths in Mulago hospital, a government established hospital, due to the reckless and negligent behavior of health workers and the limited medical machinery necessary to assist pregnant mothers with complications.

The Attorney General of the Government, stating that it was a political question doctrine, dismissed the first hearing on a preliminary objection. The political question doctrine is a ghost that has been haunting the Ugandan legal system and it was first encountered by the Constitutional court in Exparte Matovu, a 1966 decision which was challenging the Constitutionality of Obote’s government and the pigeon hall Constitution. Since then, until 2013 however, whoever questions performance of activities by government or any governmental institution is dismissed from continuing the process on grounds that the government is accountable to no one and the courts cannot question the performance of its activities.

However, in 2013, Justice Esther Kisakye gave a landslide ruling on behalf of the Supreme Court in Constitutional Appeal No.1/2013 that has formed such good jurisprudence for the Ugandan judicial limb. The court stated that the government could not hide behind the political question doctrine and fail to give accountability for the roles that were assigned to it since the constituent assembly sat in 1995 to promulgate the Constitution.

The learned justices made reference to Uganda’s broad obligations under international law such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966, The Maputo Protocol 2003 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1954, which provide that the government ought to show a fulfillment of a ‘minimum core’ obligation towards all of its duties. It thus directed the Constitutional court to hear the merits of the case and determine whether the government has actually fulfilled its minimum core obligation as regards the inconsistencies pointed out by the petitioners, this was with regard to the decision in Government of the Republic of South Africa and others V Grootboom May, 2000.

It has taken the Constitutional court five years to adhere to this Supreme Court directive and we finally got a hearing date for 13 June 2019, after years of beavering to get a hearing date. This was a major delight and ecstasy for the organization as a whole, the affected mothers, victims and well-wishers. Various media houses rejoiced with CEHURD and a social media campaign commenced, stating that the delay to hear that case has led to an increased number of maternal and child deaths especially in government institutions.

Two weeks prior to the hearing, the team worked tirelessly to compile a list of authorities, make copies of all the volumes of our documents and file our substantive arguments and submissions.

At 8:00 AM on the 13th day of June 2019, the whole team effortlessly grasped the throng of documents and volumes required for the hearing and paraded to court. Our voyage was combined with heavy down pours of rain that intensified the traffic on the roads but by the grace of God, we were able to arrive at TWED Towers, in Kampala and we were settled by 9:00 AM to await the judges to make a determination as to when our case would be heard. The courtroom was filled to capacity as students, advocates, the public and nonprofessionals sat tolerantly to hear the substantive arguments for the eight yearlong case. Majority of the public had no space to sit but they stood and awaited the proceedings.

As expected, the judges arrived at their expediency, an hour and a half later and our case was slotted for 2:00 PM. To add salt to injury, when the time for our case hearing came, it began at about 3:00 PM and the Attorney General, representative of government, asked for a month’s adjournment because they were not equipped for the submissions. The five panel bench willingly granted this adjournment and the case was slotted for 17 July 2019.

This came with a horde of disenchantments owing to the mounting success of maternal and women rights as well as the unremitting struggle to launch the aspects of health and the law into our Ugandan system. For the past four months, various reports and media coverages have been trickling in concerning a number of maternal and child deaths from Mityana Hospital and on 11 June 2016, there was a report on the death of Sylvia Nantongo, a 19 year old who died while giving birth due to the negligence of the health workers.

These have been a few of the multiple reports that have been made since 2017 on the increasing rates of maternal deaths in the country. This questions whether the government essentially takes keen interest in protecting the maternal functions of women and their rights in society as guaranteed under Article 33 of the Constitution. Additionally, there were concerns about the Constitution of the bench. There was only one lady on the bench yet these are very sensitive and important issues to the society we live in.

A four-man panel cannot effectively make a determination of maternal health law issues when they do not have a clear understanding of the nitty grities involved with child birth and thus, a need to get a more constitutive panel of females that will be able to understand the plight of the mothers and the urgency of the issues.

Until this is done, am afraid the written law concerning the rights of women and their maternal functions in society will remain on paper and the practicability of seeing justice delivered in this respect, will continue to be deferred and create peril for the lives of both women and girls in this our Uganda. Something needs to be done more proactively!   

Authored by Khanani Daniella, intern at CEHURD.

Menstrual Health remains a neglected reproductive health right

Menstruation is a naturally occurring physiological phenomenon in adolescent girls and pre-menopausal women. Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is defined as an act and process of Women and adolescent girls using a clean menstrual management material to absorb or collect blood, change materials in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of the menstruation period, using soap and water for washing the body as required, and having access to facilities to dispose of used menstrual management materials’.

Menstruation necessitates the availability of material resources to absorb or collect menstrual blood, facilitate personal hygiene and dispose of waste, ideally with adequate privacy. Women and girls in low income settings have low awareness on hygienic practices and lack culturally appropriate materials for menstrual hygiene management (MHM) practice and as a result menstruation and associated activities are surrounded by silence, shame and social taboos that are further manifested in social practices that restrict mobility, freedom and access to normal activities.

At least 500 million women and girls globally lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management (MHM). Inadequate WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities, particularly in public places, such as in schools, workplaces or health centers, can pose a major obstacle to women and girls. The lack of separate toilets with doors that can be safely closed, or the unavailability of means to dispose of used sanitary pads and water to wash hands, means that women and girls face challenges in maintaining their menstrual hygiene in a private, safe and dignified manner.

The vision behind 28th May which is the world Menstrual Hygiene Day is seeing a world in which every woman and girl is able to manage her menstruation in a hygienic way in safety, privacy, and with dignity wherever they are.

Menstrual hygiene needs are not only specific and pressing to women and girls in reproductive age but also access to materials for the management of the menstrual period, which constitutes a basic reproductive health right and have profound psycho social impact if unmet.

The silence and social stigma surrounding menstruation will only be broken when women and girls, along with their families, communities, and support systems are equipped and educated with factual information and encouraged to engage in healthy dialogue concerning MHM.

By Mr. Ogwang Christopher

Community Empowerment Program

Program Officer at Center for Health, Human rights and Development (CEHURD).


Catherine is a 28 year old mother who lost her daughter to advanced leukemia. 

After doctors had informed her that there was nothing they could do about her condition, they were sent back to their home in rural Mayuge District.

The daughter was in excruciating pain and her mother could not afford the best pain-relief medication; but most importantly both mother and daughter did not have the necessary support to prepare themselves psychologically for the looming death.  

Palliative care according to the World Health Organisation is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing problems associated with life-threatening illnesses, through the prevention and relief of pain and suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment of pain and other problems, physical, psychological and spiritual.

This does not mean that palliative care is only given to patients facing an inevitable death. In many cases, it is provided alongside treatment from the time of diagnosis till recovery.

Palliative care involves a comprehensive approach to health care which includes but is not limited to pain relief, symptom alleviation, counseling for the patient and family to affirm life and regard death as a normal process etc.

Palliative care as a human rights issue is part of the content of the right to health and because of the inter-relatedness of human rights, it also forms a big part of the right to dignity and freedom from cruel, inhuman degrading treatment.  

General Comment 14 by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights elaborates on the right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health to include access to curative, rehabilitative and palliative care services. It further states that there should be “attention and care for chronically and terminally ill persons, sparing them avoidable pain and enabling them to die with dignity.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E Mendez in his report concluded that “[w]hen the failure of States to take positive steps, or to refrain from interfering with health-care services, condemns patients to unnecessary suffering from pain, States not only fall foul of the right to health but may also violate an affirmative obligation under the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment.”

This means that states should as a minimum core obligation on the right to health ensure the accessibility and availability of essential medicines for the relief of pain and suffering in order to fulfill its obligations under the prohibition of torture and cruel inhuman degrading treatment. The WHO Essential Medicines List includes at least 14 palliative care medicines that should be accessed easily in all countries.

The accessibility of inexpensive and easy-to-find pain medication should be made priority by incorporating them into the National Public health policy/plan.

In Uganda, although the right to palliative care is not expressly set out in the constitution, it can be read into as a component of the right to health as well as Uganda’s International Human Rights obligations.

Uganda has made significant strides in ensuring that there is affordable and culturally appropriate palliative care mainly through efforts of Civil Society Organisations, the government is slowly coming on board but more needs to be done to ensure availability of free pain medication in public health facilities, training of staff such as doctors, nurses and counselors in palliative care approaches in order to help families like Catherine’s who cannot afford to get specialised care from private service providers.  

Ms. Daniella Kagina

Litigation Program

Intern at Center for Health, Human rights and Development (CEHURD).