Opinions

OPINION: The Crime of Idle and Disorderly Should be Repealed

By Ronald Dennis Bukomba

I listened Thursday, July 16, 2020, to Radio One 90.0 FM in Kampala when members of the Uganda Law Reform Commission held a topical discussion titled “review of the Penal Code Act”.

They were presenting recommendations of the commission on offences such as rape, murder, and idle-and-disorderly. They sought the listeners’ opinions in regard to the topic under discussion.

In this article, I submit on the offence of idle and disorderly and I agree that it should be repealed.

The crime of being idle and disorderly is created by Section 167 and 168 of the Penal Code Act Cap 120 of the Laws of Uganda.

This crime originates from 14th Century British laws.

Uganda received these laws when it was put under British control and subsequently in 1950 when the first Penal Code Act of Uganda was enacted.

This means the crime was partly meant to serve the society of Uganda 70 years ago.

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Other countries like Kenya, Tanzania have amended or repealed this crime.

The most targeted groups of individuals of this crime are sex workers, street dwellers, street children, drug users, beggars, hawkers among others, who may be referred to as vagabonds.

Even among these, the most vulnerable are targeted.

Newspapers report huge police swoops of idlers but little is reported on the progress of their charges.

Even during arrests, it is reported that police faults procedure as many of the victims are beaten, money is extorted from them, and ordered to remove their clothes on the way to the Police station.

Arrests are carried out without due regard to the laws that govern arrests. During arrests, police beat the arrested, undress them and parade them before media.

Some of the arrestees never make it to the police station or are released without being charged after police extorting money from them.

This law is also used as a political tool. When the country is approaching the presidential and parliamentary election period, few cases are recorded.

It is during such time when the president and politicians call upon these offences to be decriminalized and direct police to stop arrests during that period. But they resume after the elections.

Clearly this crime does not address the purpose of criminal law. It should be repealed.

The author is a law student from Islamic University In Uganda,

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