Judiciary Endorses the Need for a Sexuality Education Policy in Uganda

Kampala – Uganda. Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) with joy welcomes the long-awaited ruling from the High Court of Uganda at Kampala in the case of CEHURD vs. Attorney General & Family Life Network [Miscellaneous Cause No. 309 of 2016], commonly referred to as the Comprehensive Sexuality Education case. The High Court agreed with our submissions and the trial judge, Hon. Justice Lydia Mugambe, directed the Ministry of Education and Sports to develop a comprehensive sexuality education policy within two years, among other orders.

Another point of contention in the case was the use of the term, “comprehensive” sexuality education. To this, Hon. Justice Mugambe stated that, “The inclusion or exclusion of the term ‘comprehensive’ is a simple matter of form that should never derail the substance of this process.”

Through this judgement, Hon. Justice Mugambe upheld the fundamental human rights of all Ugandans to access health information on their sexuality.

Background

On the 18th day of November 2016, The Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) filed a case against the Attorney General, challenging the Ministry of Education and Sports’ ban on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), and their omission and delay to pass a policy on sexuality education as a violation of the right to access information contrary to Article 41 and the right to education contrary to article 30 and 34(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995. 

This case was premised on a resolution issued by the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda on 17th August 2016 directing the Ministry of Education and Sports to ban the teaching and training of CSE in Uganda. On 28th November 2016 the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development issued a press statement emphasizing to the public that the ban of CSE in Uganda was applicable in both school and non-school environments. This in effect halted the dissemination of all sexuality education in Uganda, leaving the population prey to unwanted pregnancies, STDs and STIs due to lack of information.

In May 2018, the Ministry of Education and Sports finalized and passed the National Sexuality Education Framework (NSEF) which has never been implemented and actualised, three years since its development.

Uganda, however, committed herself to formulating policies on comprehensive sexuality education in December 2013 under the Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality on sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA).

Court ruling

The High Court of Uganda through Lady Justice Lydia Mugambe upheld the rights of adolescents and ordered that;

  1. The Government’s inordinate delay and/or omission of over ten years to develop a comprehensive sexuality education policy in Uganda is a violation of Uganda’s obligations under international law and Articles 30,41 and 34(2) of the Constitution; Sections 4 (1) (c), (g) and (i) of the Children (Amendment) Act 2016; and Section 4(1) & (2) of the Education (pre-primary, primary and post primary) Act.
  • The Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Education and Sports should within two years develop a Comprehensive Sexuality Education Policy
  • The Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Education and Sports should identify and work with a breadth of relevant stakeholders and address all issues competently
  • The Attorney General should compile and submit a report to this Court every six months showing progress and implementation of the orders.

Find full Press Statement here

Empowering Adolescents and Youths will yield long-term benefits

Adolescents have the highest rate of unintended pregnancies and their unmet need for contraception is much higher. In developing countries, roughly half of the pregnancies among adolescents aged 15-19 are unintended, and half of these result in abortions, the majority of which are unsafe.

BY RODNEY KITANDWE

Sustainable development requires ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being at all ages. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of excellent health and well-being, the world must harness the full potential of all generations.

As a young person, I constantly come across contradictory and perplexing messages about gender and sexuality. With the help of a comprehensive and high-quality curriculum-based sexuality education program, I believe that all children and young people can navigate these messages and develop healthy norms about themselves and relationships that can help them become responsible citizens from an informed point of view. Although most governments have some sort of sexuality education program in place, these programs are frequently ineffective or poorly implemented. The emergence of new resources for putting these approaches into practice, as well as newly emerging research findings about effective approaches to sexual and reproductive health and rights, make this a very advantageous time to advance this fundamental human right.

As we commemorate the international youth day 2022 under the theme Inter-Generational Solidarity: In Preventing Teenage Pregnancies and Child marriages, we must promote access to comprehensive contraceptive care and contraceptive methods as an essential component of women’s health care by enacting policies and taking actions that ensure the availability of affordable and accessible services. There is a need to underpin all advocacy and programming work that ensures sexual and reproductive health and rights for all without discrimination. Fulfilling these rights and empowering adolescents and youths to make timely, informed decisions about their own bodies and their place in the world will yield long-term benefits.

Efforts should be made to increase access to emergency contraception, including the removal of the age restriction for contraception products, and to create over-the-counter access to oral contraceptives with full insurance coverage or cost assistance. Adolescents have the highest rate of unintended pregnancies and their unmet need for contraception is much higher. In developing countries, roughly half of the pregnancies among adolescents aged 15-19 are unintended, and half of these result in abortions, the majority of which are unsafe.

When designing programs for young people, it is critical to consider their reasons for not using contraception despite the fact that they do not want a pregnancy. Infrequent sex, concerns about contraceptive side effects, breastfeeding, or opposition to contraception, believing that its use conflicts with their traditions and religious directives are examples of such reasons. In this context, contraception information and education are required, as are efforts to understand and address myths and misconceptions. The revised International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education establishes key concepts and learning objectives for use in school and community-based sexuality education that are scientifically accurate, comprehensive, age and developmentally appropriate, and based on human rights and gender equality.

The writer is an intern in the Strategic Litigation programme at the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD.

Call for Participation in the 9th Annual National Inter-University Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition

Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) invites different universities with schools/faculties of law in Uganda to participate in the 9th Annual National Inter-University Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition. The moot is scheduled to take place on 3rd – 4th  November 2022.

The 9th Annual National Inter-University Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition is taking place under the theme, “Gender Discrimination: The Plight of Pregnant Girls in School”. Uganda has experienced an ever-growing number of teenage pregnancies exacerbated by the outbreak of COVID-19 and the lockdown that ensued. Many teenagers have been forced out of school while others have dropped out due to the stigma and discrimination they have faced. Their freedom from non-discrimination, as much as their right to education has therefore been violated. The moot has been designed to enable students to analyse the revised guidelines developed by the Ministry of Education and Sports for the prevention and management of teenage pregnancy in school settings in Uganda, and assess their legal impact on the right to Education through the use of a hypothetical moot problem that students shall use to participate in the moot.

The main objective of the Moot is to train students in practical aspects of litigating health and human rights within Uganda’s Courts of Law. This kind of arrangement helps bring out lawyers that understand key constitutional and health issues beyond what they are taught in class. The Moot specifically aspires to train students in legal writing, arguing cases in Court, professional conduct and demeanor while arguing cases and preparation of Court pleadings.

We call upon universities that are interested in participating to fill this form as an expression of interest to participate by Friday, 19th August, 2022 at 5:00 pm.

#CEHURDMOOT22  #KeepingPregnantGirlsInSchoolUg

Breastfeeding Crowns the Joy of Motherhood

I have personally breastfed my first child up to 1 year and 6 months. My current baby is 1 year and 3 months old, he is still breastfeeding and I intend to breastfeed him for up to 2 years. I am enjoying the benefits of this as they both rarely catch common illnesses. I recognize that I am privileged to work for an organisation that makes allowances for me to travel with my child so that breastfeeding can continue. That is why I call upon the government to mandate workplaces to cater to breastfeeding mothers. 

– sARAH AKAMPURIRA

It’s incredible how happy and fulfilled a mother feels as she watches her child’s development from birth. This growth is usually facilitated by breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is more than just the ability to access one’s right to food, one’s right to health, or the performance of the duty of motherhood. Breast milk contains more components than any formula, food, or mixture on earth combined.

The bond a mother forms with her infant when breastfeeding has enormous advantages that assist the child as an adult. While nursing, a mother can quickly determine whether her child is healthy, sick, happy, or upset without using any words. The majority of the time, midwives tell us that talking to our children while we breastfeed is important because even when they are unable to speak back, they understand. This is crucial for the growth and development of children.

Did you know, however, that the benefits of breastfeeding endure longer for both the mother and the baby’s health the longer the child is breastfed?

Many scientists agree that there are numerous advantages to breastfeeding a baby exclusively for the first six months up to two years of age. Antibodies found in breast milk lower the incidence of ear infections, diarrhea, allergies, and asthma. They continue to note that babies who are breastfed have stronger immune systems and are less likely to require hospitalisation.

Appropriate diet, consumption of fluids like oatmeal, water, and fruit juice, good health practices, and the support of the mother’s entire family are all necessary for a mother to properly breastfeed her child and fulfill this divinely mandated duty. A mother will always find time for her baby to breastfeed, connect, chat, laugh, and experience the joy of motherhood despite all the other responsibilities of any adult woman, talk of professional/career aspirations outside the household setting, the desire to achieve career goals, not to mention the pressure that comes with it.

In commemoration of the recently concluded World Breast Feeding week under the theme ‘Step up for Breastfeeding’, I urge the government, the private sector, and other companies to take into consideration creating a nursery or special space at the office. In these spaces, moms can sit for a 20–30-minute break and breastfeed their children. This improves performance, stabilises the workplace, and keeps a mother’s mental health in check because she won’t have to worry about leaving her three-and-a-half-month-old at home with a babysitter for more than 10 hours while she is at work.

It is true that when you strive to eat and drink more to ensure that you have enough breast milk for the baby, this can sometimes result in weight gain. Instead of cutting back on drinks or placing limitations, increase your exercise to stay healthy and fit. So that you may continue to be an example to other mothers. Shut your ears to any unfavourable advice, especially when they say things like, “the baby is now a big boy or girl and he can do away with breast milk at six or eight months.” Continue breastfeeding your child and only introduce supplemental feeds once they are at least six months old. Also, make the most of any free time you have to do so. As a mother, you benefit in two ways: your child grows up healthy, and you lower your risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other cancers. It is a twofold gain.

Never forget the joy of parenthood, and once the breastfeeding phase is over, you will work on it harder. Don’t worry about the peer pressure about how you are gaining weight and, from what I hear, growing out of shape.

I have personally breastfed my first child up to one year and six months. My current baby is one year and three months old, he is still breastfeeding and I intend to breastfeed him for up to two years. I am enjoying the benefits of this as they both rarely catch common illnesses. I recognize that I am privileged to work for an organisation that makes allowances for me to travel with my child so that breastfeeding can continue. That is why I call upon the government to mandate workplaces to cater to breastfeeding mothers. 

Last but not least, I urge all women who are able to do so to prolong their baby’s breastfeeding experience by delaying early weaning and to take advantage of the positive impacts breastfeeding has on both the mother and the child.

Sarah Akampurira is the Programme Coordinator, Community Empowerment at CEHURD, and a breastfeeding advocate.

CASE BRIEF; UGANDA V KATO FREDERICK Criminal Case 56 of 2020

Representing a Doctor caught up in the Justice System for Provision of Post-Abortion Care

KATIA ALUPO OLARO
Programme Associate, Strategic Litigation

In April 2020, the accused was arrested for allegedly committing the offence of Supply of Drugs to procure abortion contrary to Section 143 of the Penal Code Act, Cap. 120 of the Laws of Uganda. He was arraigned in court, formally charged and subsequently remanded to Kitalya Maximum Security Prison, Wakiso District, Uganda. This affected the accused’s work and the eventual closure of his pharmacy.

Download case brief to learn more about the case;

East African Community: Why integration of sexual and reproductive health is key

By Peter Eceru – Programme Coordinator, Advocacy – CEHURD

Currently, the East African Legislative Assembly is undertaking regional consultations on the Sexual and Reproductive Health Bill, 2021 in the all-members states. The Bill is premised on Article 118 of the treaty for the establishment of the East African Community which provides for cooperation in health and promotes the management of health delivery systems and better planning mechanisms to enhance the efficiency of health care services. The East African Community treaty also seeks to harmonise national health policies and regulations in order to achieve quality health care in partner states. The treaty also looks at cooperation in the development of specialised health training, health research, reproductive health, pharmaceutical products and preventive medicines.

The Bill further seeks to strengthen the mechanism that facilitates attainment by the Community of the goal to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services by 2030. These services include family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes. This goal is enshrined in the EAC Integrated Reproductive Maternal, New-born Child and Adolescent Health Policy Guidelines 2016-2030, and the EAC Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Strategic Plan.

The Bill recognises the obligation of Partner States under several international, continental and Community frameworks, to respect, protect and fulfil the right to health. They do this by facilitating, providing, and promoting the highest attainable standard of health and providing measures toward the full realisation of the right to health. Bill will strengthen the mechanism to facilitate the attainment of the Community goal of ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including family planning, information and education.

The Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health indicators in the East African Community member states are worse than the average in the rest of Africa. High maternal and mortality rates for children under five, high unmet need for contraceptives and adolescent fertility rates demonstrate a need for collective action across the community to respond to the sexual and reproductive health challenges. In 2020, 39,000 children in East Africa were born with HIV infections that could have been easily prevented. During the same period, 62,000 mothers died from childbirth complications that could have been easily addressed. Two hundred million girls and women are estimated to have undergone genital mutilation. Additionally, cervical cancer remains a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in African women, where the estimated rate of deaths is 94 women per 100,000. Currently, 19 million women in East Africa cannot access modern contraception and a further 2.5 million are at risk of death due to complications from unsafe abortions. The Covid-19 pandemic led to a very big increase in violence against women and girls all over the East African Community putting the future of millions of women and children in jeopardy.

Indicators across the different countries in the region vary in terms of severity. For example, South Sudan has the highest maternal mortality rate within the Community with 1,150 deaths per 100,000 women who give birth, while Rwanda has the lowest at 248 deaths per 100,000 women giving birth. These variations demonstrate the need for collaborative health systems planning and how this would benefit the region in dealing with high mortality rates within the East African Community Member states. Various countries have over time developed best practices that can be shared across the Community. In Uganda, a weekly maternal death surveillance enables the ministry to follow up on maternal deaths and investigate the causes. This enables timely response.

To strengthen regional Health Information Management Systems, it is critical to have a regional framework to guide this. The collection of data on for example contraceptive use, sexual and reproductive health and the wider reproductive, adolescent maternal newborn remains uncoordinated across the Community. In Uganda, this information is collected through the Uganda Demographic Health Survey and the Health Information Management Systems. In the case of partner states, different information is collected among partner states and this information is collected along different time periods. This makes it difficult to utilise the information for the purpose of regional planning and collective decision-making. Sound and reliable data is the foundation for decision-making across all health system building blocks and is essential for health system policy formulation and implementation, governance and regulation, health research, human resource development, service delivery and financing.

The consultations on this Bill are therefore a very important process in strengthening regional integration and specific emphasis on the promotion of sexual and reproductive health in the EAC partner states.

A version of this article was first published in the Daily Monitor Newspaper on 6th July 2022.