Women’s Day: Uganda’s Persistent Fight Against Gender Based Violence

Uganda is today joining the rest of the world to mark the International Women’s Day.

While the international theme for 2020 is ‘an equal world is an enabled world,’ Uganda’s national theme is celebrating 25 years of the 1995 constitution; milestones on promoting gender equality and women empowerment in Uganda’

In Uganda, a number of steps are being to address one of the greatest setbacks for women emancipation, Gender Based Violence (GBV)

Currently the prevalence of GBV in Uganda remains high. Half of women (51%) and men (52%) age15-49 have experienced physical violence since age 15, and 1 in 5 experienced physical violence in the 12 months preceding the survey.

22% of women and 8% of men have ever experienced sexual violence. Whereas more women than men experienced physical violence in Uganda, it is important to note that the prevalence has reduced from 59.9% in 2006 to 51% in 2016 (UDHS, 2016).

Defilement constitutes 50% of all serious crimes reported to the Uganda Police Force in 2017. This is the main reason why teenage pregnancy and motherhood has been a major health and social concern in Uganda for some time. The 2016 UDHS results showed that 25% of women age 15-19 have begun childbearing; 19% have had a live birth, and 5% are pregnant with their first child. Reporting of and response to GBV is still low; only 33% of women and 30% of men sought help to stop violence.

One of the rights that the 1995 constitution gave women was equal and treatment for both male and females.


Article 33(4) of the Constitution provides that women shall have the right to equal treatment with men and that right shall include equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities. These rights include living a dignified life without gender based violence (GBV)

A number of others laws have been enacted to operationalize the provisions of the Constitution that address GBV.

These include the Domestic Violence Act 2010 and its regulations 2011, the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2010 and its regulations, the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act 2009, the Penal Code Act, Cap 120, the Children (Amendment) Act 2016 and the International Criminal Court Act 2010.

However, there are still cultural institutions with customary laws and practices concerning land ownership, marriage, and child custody that conflict with national laws and policies to address GBV.

Further commitment is reflected in the Equal Opportunity Act (2010) and the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) of 2015. The PFMA requires all Ministries, Agencies and Local Governments to allocate resources for the delivery of gender equality and equity in Uganda.

The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) is implementing the National Policy and Action Plan on the Elimination of Gender Based Violence in Uganda (2016), the National Strategy on Ending Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy (2016-2020), the Referral Pathway for Response to Gender Based Violence cases in Uganda (2013) and the Guidelines for establishment and Management of GBV Shelters in Uganda (2013). This regulatory framework has empowered State, Non-State and individual actors with effective tools to combat all forms of GBV, leading to a more holistic and integrated response to FGM.

Uganda is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking victims. Government under the MGLSD is managing the externalization of labour through registration and vetting of labour recruitment agencies, terminating the licenses of agencies that are non-compliant with regulations and screening persons entering and leaving the country, repatriation of TIP survivors, and signing Bi-lateral Agreements with other countries.


Prevention and response to GBV requires more Government interventions in the medium term.  Reliable data and statistics are needed to monitor the country’s progress towards meeting national, regional, and international commitments to address GBV, such as the National Strategic Plan on elimination of GBV, National Development Plan II, Vision 2040, and the Sustainable Development Goals among others.

According to MGLSD, these are some of the challenges that are hindering efforts towards eliminating GBV

Persistent discriminatory and negative social norms and practices against women and girls.

Delayed passing of the Marriage and Divorce Bill into law

High levels of sexual gender based violence leading to high levels of teenage pregnancies and child marriages,

Persistent high lending rates by commercial banks, coupled by lack of collateral among women,

The majority of Ugandan women entrepreneurs continue to sell their products in local markets and in raw form,

Limited attention to gender and equity issues across sector policies, programmes and projects,

Data gaps on the national priority gender equality and women’s empowerment indicators to inform planning and implementation of programmes.

The leadership function of the National Gender Machinery- Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to support gender and equity responsiveness among sectors and agencies is still weak. Thus calling for deliberate measures to strengthen the leadership role of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development,

Tackling negative social norms, and all forms of gender based violence

  • The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development should champion the implementation of the male engagement strategy; to engage high level male leaders, religious and traditional leaders, as custodians of customs and traditions in transforming or abandoning these customs and practices which discriminate against women and girls.


  • Strengthen integrated support services for survivors of GBV to ensure efficiency, safety and trust,


  • Address intersectional discrimination and violence against women and girls, particularly among women living with disabilities, the elderly, refugees and internally displaces women,


  • The Ministry of Health should ensure universal access to health care including for HIV and sexual reproductive health services and reproductive rights.


Sustained and predictable financial resources allocated for the implementation of commitments, policies and programmes that advance gender equality and women’s empowerment across all sectors:


  • The National Planning Authority should take deliberate measures to mainstream gender and equity in the Third National Development Plan including across sector policies, programmes and projects.


  • The Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development should ensure that all Ministries, Agencies and Local Government have specific budgets for gender and equity including women’s empowerment as per the PFMA 2015.


  • Government of Uganda should scale-up financing flagships programmes on gender equality and women’s empowerment such as UWEP, the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, the National Action Plan on Elimination of Gender Based Violence, the Youth Livelihood Programme, Women in Public Procurement, National Strategy for Girls’ Education among others.


  • All Ministries, Agencies and Local Government should invest in adolescents development paying special attention to adolescent girls; reduce the high rates of teenage pregnancies, child marriages, and keeping them longer in school; sexual reproductive health; science and mathematics education, digital innovations for community development, skilling and economic empowerment.


  • Strengthening livelihood and economic empowerment programmes for women and particularly recognizing the contribution of unpaid care and domestic work in the economy


  • Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) should invest in the generation and dissemination of gender-responsive national statistics to inform evidence-based planning, monitoring, evaluation as well as reporting on gender equality and women’s empowerment.


  • Investing in capacity building of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the National Machinery on spearheading gender equality and women’s empowerment.


  • The Ministry of Public Service should support the establishments of Gender Mainstreaming Units/Departments across all Ministries and Agencies to catalyse for change and effective integration of gender and equity into policies and programmes as per the requirements of the PFMA 2015.


  • Harness public- private partnerships for advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.


  • Implement the Constitutional National Objective and principle VI on Gender balance for increased participation of women in politics and decision-making.


  • The Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development should fast track the implementation of the National Gender and Equity Capacity Building Plan as well as Program Based Budgeting that focuses on outcomes including strengthening Sector



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