Sexual violence is any act which violates the autonomy and bodily integrity of women and children under the international criminal law including but not limited to; rape, sexual assault, grievous bodily harm, mutilation of female reproductive organs among others. It can also be seen as a form of violence against women (and men, who can also be sexually harassed) and as discriminatory treatment.

Legal definition of some types of sexual violence

  1. Rape:  is defined as having unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind or by fear of bodily harm, or by means of false representations as to the nature of the act, or in the case of a married woman, by impersonating her husband, commits the felony termed rape.[1] Once a person is convicted the Punishment for Rape is death.  Attempt to commit rape calls for a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. [2]
  2. Defilement: The Ugandan Penal Code Act was amended define defilement as having sexual intercourse with a person under 18 years of age. This means that the current law punishes the defilement of both girls and boys. Such person on conviction is liable to life imprisonment.  The law provides for the offense of aggravated defilement, which makes one on conviction by the High Court liable to suffer death. The circumstances for aggravated defilement are:-
  3. Where the person defiled is below the age of 14 years
  4. Where the offender is infected with HIV
  5. Where the offender is a parent or guardian or a person in authority over, the victim
  6. Where the victim of the offence is a person with disability; or
  7. Where the offender is a serial one.

Under the law a person charged with aggravated defilement is obliged to undergo a medical examination as to determine their HIV status.

The law on defilement further provides for payment of compensation to victims of defilement in addition to any sentence imposed on the offender. It provides for the offense of child-to-child sex, where the offender is a child under 12 years; and when committed by a male child and a female child upon each other when each is not below 12 years, each of the offenders shall be dealt with as required by the Children Act.

Gravity of the sexual violence state in Uganda

Sexual and gender-based violence offenses are the most common and prevalent offenses committed in Uganda. [3]Through 2005-2014, rape fluctuated substantially; it tended to decrease ending at 2.9 cases per 100,000 population.[i]

Worryingly, the Police Crime report for 2015 indicates that at least 1,419 cases of rape were reported countrywide. This rose to 1,572 in 2016, dropped to 1,335 in 2017, and rose to 1,580 cases in 2018.[ii]

1 in 3 women are victims or survivors of sexual violence, 1 in 6 men are survivors/victims of Rape and Assault.

The above statistics are appalling and shocking, what aren’t we doing well? Has the law failed in some way or it’s the community that is not doing enough?

Why the increase in sexual offenses in Uganda?

Clearly it is not the absence of the Law that has caused failure to eliminate sexual violence in our society because the different actors under the referral pathway like police, Ministry of Health, Parliament, religious sector, the media, Health and Human rights organizations like CEHURD are the leading institutions in fighting this vice. But it is still an uphill climb,

Some of the possible reasons include;

  • The increased drug abuse among the young population
  • The delay in the Justice system for rape victims to get justice
  • Victims of rape, especially the corporate type, rarely report cases of rape to police due to stigma
  • Unemployment, leading to criminal minds
  • Media’s constant display of explicit content leading to moral decay

Who is mostly at the risk of sexual violence?

Women and girls experience sexual violence at high rates while men/boys experience it at a low rate. Attacks can happen from anywhere, by anyone at any time. Places like refugee camps, homes, schools, offices, isolated spaces are some of the breeding grounds for rape.

What next after rape?

It is true that there is a gap or little knowledge on what the victims of rape are supposed to do immediately after the unfortunate incident. The public needs to know that comprehensive sexual assault services are available at all levels of the public health care system, from local health centers and clinics to national referral hospitals.

The first step is to report the assault/ incident at the nearest police station. After the complaint has been lodged at the Police Station and a statement recorded, the victim is subjected to a medical examination to ascertain the authenticity of the rape, assault and gravity of the incident to inform the nature of the case and evidence to support the case.  Before a victim lodges a compliant at a Police Station and undergoes a medical examination, they are advised to avoid activities that could potentially damage evidence such as bathing, showering, using the restroom, changing clothes, combing hair, and cleaning up the area.

Rape survivors are most often in a compromised and highly vulnerable position when they seek for help. Attendants ought to recognize the vulnerability of these clients and ensure that treatment does not cause further trauma or secondary victimization. The treatment should be sensitively given, with confidentiality and informed consent.

Rape / sexual assault victims are advised undergo Medical Examination. DNA evidence from the crime scene should be collected from the crime scene, but it can also be collected from the body of the victim, clothes, and other personal belongings. In most cases, DNA evidence needs to be collected within 72 hours from the occurrence of the incident.

Effects of The Rape Trauma

Rape and Sexual Assault cases may come and go, but they leave  grave, life-long effects on victims., Their psychological health and physical well-being are usually adversely affected; some of these effects include; sexually transmitted infections (diseases), depression, low self-esteem, mental illness, suicidal thoughts, insecurity, poor performance, isolation, pregnancy, post traumatic disorder etc.

Way forward

  • Having more relevant and updated policies will ensure safety for all. As seen in Section 123 of the Penal code Act of 1954, only girls and women are considered to be victims, but time has shown that men and boys are also at risk.
  • Justice delayed is Justice denied, assailants should be brought to book as soon as possible and uncalled for delays in the Justice system should be eliminated.
  • Rehabilitation centers for Rape and Sexual Assault victims should be publicized more to support survivors emotionally and mentally
  • Men should be involved at ground level because they are extremely important in breaking the rape culture.
  • Government should step up mobilization, sensitization and education. Follow up referral pathways, investigate every single case reported quickly and effectively.

[1] Section 123 of the Penal code Act.

[2] Section 125 of the Penal Code Act,

[3] The presiding High Court Judge, Justice Gadenya Paul Wolimbwa, much attention is drawn towards Sexual Gender Based Violence cases such as defilement, rape and domestic violence, because they constitute 62 percent of the cases in the High Court of Uganda.[3]



By Jacqueline Twemanye and Nakalembe Judith -CEHURD.


We at Center for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) are excited to welcome and introduce to you our new Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Fatia Kiyange. Having Fatia at CEHURD is such a great honour!
Ms. Kiyange brings with her 19 years of work experience in the areas of programme development; leadership and management in the health and social justice sectors at the national, regional and global level. READ MORE..

Press Statement; The Ethics Case

28th November, 2019


Infants put in Harm’s way in a bid to prove a scientific belief!

Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) and Partners have today filed a case in the High Court of Uganda challenging the act of subjecting helpless children between 28 days to 12 years of age to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in a bid prove a scientific belief.

This research allegedly seeks to establish whether the use of oxygen is necessary in the treatment of Oxygen deficiency in children. This research process deliberately denies oxygen to these vulnerable children suffering from breathing complications (oxygen deficiency) and in some cases subjected to very low levels of oxygen which is highly life threatening.

It is reported that this trial has led to allegedly 41% deaths in Mulago National Referral Hospital alone, but the research is still being carried out in Mbale, Soroti and Jinja regional referral hospitals.

As Human rights activists, we believe that this infringes fundamental rights including the right to life and yet children are protected under Article 34(2) of the constitution which states that children should not be denied basic needs due to a belief. We believe that the nation has to pick interest in these life threatening scientific trials and the state should invoke its duty to protect citizens subjected to such harsh trials.

The clinical trial is conducted way below the ethical standards for research and contravenes the constitution and laws of Uganda. Worse still, the research did not seek for a Certificate of Approval from National Drug Authority (NDA) which is a requirement prior to conducting any clinical trial on pharmaceuticals in Uganda. 

Such clinical trails are against the set clinical practice guidelines and guidelines of medical practice and research both locally and internationally, given the fact that the doctors swear an oath to do no harm.

We therefore ask the high Court for declarations, interim orders, and permanent relief to stop the conduct of this clinical trial which we deem unethical and falling below the constitutional values of this country. We further ask the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council (UMDPC) and the Uganda human rights commission to investigate the human rights and ethical implications of the clinical trial.

FOR MORE INFORMATION please call 0414532283 or write to and copy


By Jacqueline Twemanye

On an eventful Thursday evening of 7th November 2019, Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) had its 10 years’ celebrations at Sheraton Kampala Hotel in a memorable event for not only making 10 years of existence but for emerging as a key player in the field of advancing human rights and social justice in health; with a reputation for using bold strategies to realize and expand the right to health.

Clearly this milestone could not have been achieved overnight, it has taken 10 years of persistence, hard work, focus, determination and a clear vision to come this far in pursuit for justice in the health sector. This is backed by Prof. Joe Oloka Onyango, the day’s Keynote speakers’ description of CEHURD as “a vibrant, vivacious and vigorous organisation”.

For years, CEHURD has trodden dusty roads to reach far-end vulnerable communities as well as high-end policy making levels driven by a passion to bridge health gaps.

“What inspired me to embark on this journey was my Mother-a retired nurse and the challenges she went through while practicing, secondly the people who were of great influence in my walk of life and lastly the question of how Lawyers could use the constitutional language to demand for an improved health system” – Mr. Mulumba Moses, Executive Director CEHURD.

It is of no wonder that CEHURD has transformed the advocacy environment around the right to health, communities have become more aware of their right to a proper health care system and in turn demand for it. CEHURD not only deals in legal practice but also translates the theoretical and conceptual health issues into research and advocacy.

“I do not take the 10 years of CEHURD for granted, when two of my former students came to my office and said they had started an organisation aimed at promoting the right to health and human rights, as a founding teacher of Health & the Law and Health law and Policy at Makerere University, I was excited.” – Prof. Ben Twinomugisha, Board Chairperson CEHURD.                                                                                

It was on this day (7th November), that CEHURD launched its Strategic Plan (2020-2024) –Rebound | Innovate | Sustain, which is a compass to the five years ahead.

“It is not only a celebration for the past, it is a celebration for the future now that the strategic plan has been launched. We very much look forward to working closely with CEHURD in these coming years especially in areas of Sexual Reproductive Health Rights” –Mr. Ola Hallgren, Head of Cooperation Embassy of Sweden.

Congratulations CEHURD! To more years of impactful existence.

The Writer is a Communications Officer at the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD).