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New report exposes impact of Uganda’s abortion law through personal stories.


07.28.16 – (PRESS RELEASE) Due to the unclear abortion law in Uganda, women and adolescents continue seeking unsafe abortions and are vilified by their families and communities—even the doctors and health workers who provide legal post-abortion care are being arrested, according to a new report by the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD).

“Facing Uganda’s Law on Abortion: Experiences from Women and Service Providers” is a sexual and reproductive health advocacy publication highlighting experiences and perspectives of individuals who have been affected by or dealt with abortion. The publication includes interviews with women and girls who ended pregnancies, as well as doctors, nurses, health worker, lawyers, police and community members.

Abortion in Uganda is legal in limited circumstances, yet approximately 85,000 women each year receive treatment for complications from unsafe abortion and an additional 65,000 women experience complications but do not seek medical treatment.

Every woman and adolescent girl has a right to make informed decisions about their reproductive health, said Onyema Afulukwe, senior legal advisor for Africa at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Uganda’s abortion law punishes women and girls who choose to end a pregnancy and criminalizes the health workers that offer them legal post-abortion care. This new report shows that now, more than ever, the Ugandan government must clarify its law and expand access to safe and legal abortion services.” 

 The Center for Reproductive Rights provided technical support for the CEHURD report, which addresses the current state of the abortion law in Uganda, the difficulties accessing lawful and safe abortion services, as well as enforcement of the abortion law by both the police and local communities.

Individuals stories highlighted in the report include among others:

  • Nabukeera Sarah, a 15 year old who was drugged and raped by a health worker when seeking medical treatment, and had to turn to an illegal abortion,
  • Kadaga Henry Francis, who was arrested and detained after providing a woman with post-abortion care who later died from unsafe abortion complications,
  • Wasswa Alex, a local community leader who reported a rape survivor with intellectual disabilities to police after neighbors ganged up on the woman for ending the pregnancy

These personal stories demonstrate how Ugandas abortion law is working against the women and adolescents who need reproductive health services, and the health professionals who should be able to practice medicine without fear of incarceration, said Moses Mulumba, executive director of CEHURD. “It’s time the government amend the abortion law and implement health policies to ensure women and girls can get the health services they need and deserve.

The Center has worked extensively in Uganda on the human rights implications of lack of access to legal abortion and modern contraceptives. In November 2013, the Center, the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic and the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law released a joint report entitled The Stakes Are High: The Tragic Impact of Unsafe Abortion and Inadequate Access to Contraception in Uganda. The report documents personal stories of women impacted by the widespread and false impression that abortion is illegal in all circumstances in Uganda— when in fact it is permitted for women with life-threatening conditions and victims of sexual assault.

In 2012, the Center launched its first research report on Uganda’s laws and policies on termination of pregnancy. The report found that the laws and policies are more expansive than most believe, and Uganda has ample opportunity to increase access to safe abortion services.




Natalia Garzon, Senior Press Officer, Center for Reproductive Rights

Mobile: 00 1 917 257 9793 / Skype: Garzon_crr / Email:

Maxie Ayebare, Communications Officer, Center for Health Human Rights and Development

Mobile: +256 791 845559 / Skype: maxie.ayebare /Email:



Protect health workers’ rights while on duty! IMC clinics in the spotlight


Kampala, Uganda

Today the Center for health human rights and Development filed a complaint jointly with Dr. Diana Stella Nasike with the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council (UMDPC) to challenge the poor working environments and conditions in which many of our health workers are subjected to.

Prior to November 6th 2015, Dr. Diana Stella Nasike had raised concerns with the human resource department at the International Medical Centre Clinic in Kololo where she works in a poorly ventilated room where she had to attend to patients. This is Consultation Room 2 at the International Medical Center (IMC), Upper Kololo Terrace which has no window but just a small hatch sized opening. Dr. Diana works a 12 hour day shift and at least 180 hours a week! Her patients’ are mostly people with respiratory infections, coughs and colds. Being the health worker, she notified the administration and management of IMC that poor ventilation was a risk to her health as patients cough in her face from time to time. Indeed a few months later she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and had to continue work while undergoing treatment. As though that’s not enough, the treatment room at IMC Kololo provides no privacy at all for patients who are being attended to. Anyone can walk in, watch and or listen in while a health worker is attending to a patient.

The management of IMC Clinics –an affiliation of the International Medical Group has however made no effort to rectify the situation even after several letters from CEHURD were written to their office to desist from abusing their employees’ rights to work in a clean and healthy environment.

“TO DO NO HARM- that is a clause in the Hippocrates’ Oath that we take as doctors. That is a vital clause that should govern both our personal and institutional medical practice. A medical doctor or medical institution that does not uphold this becomes a danger to themselves and to the very people they serve.”Dr. Diana Stella Nasike notes in her statement to the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioner’s Council.

All Ugandans have rights to privacy of information –this is re-echoed in our 1995 Constitution, the Ministry of Health Patients Charter, the Medical Code of Professional Ethics and a guaranteed right to a clean and healthy environment.  Uganda’s parliament has guaranteed that occupational health and safety is underscored in our domestic laws through enactment of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, of 2006. IMC’s deliberate disregard to employees’ rights and patients’ rights to privacy while they access services in their facilities is in utter violation of these obligations.

“It is our appeal to the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council to suspend all health services to patients at the International Medical Centre located on Plot 51A, Upper Kololo Terrace until these complaints are addressed by the management of IMC. All employers ought to understand that it is a constitutional obligation for all persons, health facilities, and government, to respect, uphold and promote human rights of individuals including patients and health workers in private practice.” notes Ms. Primah Kwagala –Program Manager Strategic Litigation at the Centre for Health, Human Rights & Development (CEHURD).

For details please contact:


or call +256414532283

Download the full  press release .


Joining hands to say NO to HIV criminalization

pic2CEHURD within the HIV/AIDS coalition has joined other civil society organizations together with academics, professional associations, public health specialists and researchers to challenge the ‘vague and criminalizing’ sections of the HIV law by filling a petition in the constitution court of Uganda. These different actors believe that criminal punishment and discrimination on the basis of HIV infection is both a legal and human rights question.


The major grounds of this petition include S. 18(e) “Disclosure by the third party” which violates the right to privacy as per Article 27 of the Ugandan Constitution as well as S.41 “Attempted transmission” which also violates the right to equality and the right to dignity.

These sections go on to violate the rights of patients as stipulated under the patients’ charter – a document that was developed by the ministry of health with the sole purpose of raising the standard of health care by empowering patients to responsibly demand good quality health care. Specifically, these discriminatory sections of the act gravely contradict articles 2 and 15 of the patients’ charter which speak to a patient’s right to confidentiality and privacy as well as prohibition of discrimination.

13735708_1636781579969605_6549335543670723218_oPreceding the filing of the petition at the constitutional court, a bevy of human rights activists gathered at the Uganda Museum on the 14th of July 2016. Activists from all branches of human rights were ready to take to the streets and march in support of this cause. People living with HIV/AIDS, nurses, medical workers, students, mothers with their babies, persons with disabilities, lawyers, journalists and human rights activists, clad in their T-shirts and placards, were led by the Makerere University band to TWED towers where the constitutional court resides for the petition to be filed.

The major concern was that criminalizing HIV transmission and/or exposure seriously hinders public health approaches to preventing HIV transmission and also disrupts access to HIV testing, education and support services and erodes public health norms that support mutual responsibility for HIV prevention and further heightens HIV-related stigma.

With the filing of this petition, civil society and all human rights activists hope that the government can give Ugandans a law that is not only amended, but also respectful of the rights of its citizens – even those living with HIV/AIDS.




Walking the tight rope: The role of local governments in promoting access to emergency obstetric care in Uganda

By Primah Kwagala


According to Chapter 11 of Uganda’s Constitution, local governments have a mandate to oversee the performance of their employees, provide them services and monitor those services. It is on this basis that the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) came to work with a family in Nakaseke District to seek justice for the maternal deaths in Nakaseke District Hospital.

In May 2011, Ms. Nanteza Irene accompanied by her husband Mr. Mugerwa David went to Nakaseke District Hospital to deliver their baby. The midwives on duty uncovered that there was an obstruction during Ms. Natenza’s labour. This required emergency obstetric care by a doctor who was nowhere to be found. The doctor finally arrived eight hours later but was too late to save Ms. Nanteza’s life.

CEHURD alongside Mr. Mugerwa David and his children filed a civil suit in the high court in 2012 against Nakaseke District Local Government. The plaintiffs sought general and punitive damages in addition to declarations that the deceased’s right to life, health, freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, equal treatment and the children’s rights to be cared for by their mother had been violated by the hospital staff. CEHURD argued that the Nakaseke District Local Government was vicariously liable for the acts and omissions of their employees.

The court held that the local government was responsible for the administrative and supervisory oversight of Nakaseke District Hospital. The local government was in charge of sending an administrator to ensure that there were adequate heath care services in place at the hospital. In this case, however, the government failed to ensure that there were sufficient resources, such as doctors, at the hospital. The court held that the doctor was vicariously liable for the death of Ms. Nanteza Irene.

This case saw for the very first time in Uganda, a justice of the High court visit to a district hospital to establish the facts and circumstances. This illustrates the commitment from the judge to understand the issues of health and human rights.

Indeed Justice Benjamin Kabiito’s judgment held that Ms. Nanteza Irene’s human and maternal rights and the rights of her family were violated. Justice Benjamin Kabiito decried the poor status of health in the country and the meager resources devoted to the health sector but found it sufficient to award general damages worth UGX 35,000,000 against Nakaseke District Local Government. He cautioned the health workers that were negligent in handling the deceased and called on the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council to investigate issues of negligent conduct leading to deaths of innocent citizens.

This case was the first of its kind to recognize the right to access emergence obstetric care (EMC) as being justiciable and a fundamental human right in Uganda. The results of this case set precedence for the litigation of maternal health rights in Uganda.

The case further opened public’s eyes on their ability to demand health and human rights while ensuring that the Code of Conduct and Ethics for Public Service of conduct laid out by the government. A key issue to also note was Justice Kabiito’s limited appreciation of human rights issues. Contrary to the public opinion that human rights are a westernized idea being imposed on Ugandans, the issue of emergence obstetric care was homegrown. Much as Justice Kabiito wanted to subvert the discussion to negligence and tortuous conduct of health workers, jurisprudence was drawn into the perspective of how the judiciary understands health and human rights of ordinary citizens of Uganda.


Universal Periodic Review and the right to health situation in Uganda: Setting the agenda.

By Noor Nakibuuka

International mechanisms are often not given much attention, probably because majority of Ugandans are not aware of their existence or importance.  Unlike the previous review of the country in 2011, Ugandans are more than ready to participate in the Universal periodic review (UPR) of 2016.

The universal periodic review is a unique process of the Human Rights Council (HRC) aimed at improving the human rights situation for each of the 193 member states – Uganda inclusive. This mechanism gives room for each country under review to provide information on the Human rights situation there, and between October and November 2016, Uganda will undergo a review.

In preparation for this review, various civil society organisations have set the agenda. CEHURD has led civil society organizations working to promote the right to health in Uganda (including sexual reproductive health rights) to put together and submit reports prior to the review.

Indeed, much of the information provided relates to the situation of the right to health from the previous review to date, citing what recommendations the state committed to, what it has done and not.

The report also introduced new areas that were never discussed in the previous review but have evolved with time and may affect the realization of the right to health – mental health laws; access to safe and legal abortion; Access to sexual reproductive health services and information by the youth among others are some of the areas introduced in the submitted reports.

Putting the reports together necessitated time, trainings on universal periodic review,  meeting with experts on the same and understanding standard guidelines set by the office of high commissioner for human rights that duly receives these reports.

Although the state still has time within which to submit its report, we anticipate that the process will be consultative and civil society given room to input into the state report. We appreciate the space the state has provided us in participating into the national Action plan which was a voluntary pledge made during the previous review and hope that funds to implement such a constructive document will be prioritized in order to realize among others, the right to health.