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Uganda’s legislation way below standard on children rights, says new report

UHRC Director Directorate of Monitoring and Inspections, Ms Sekindi Ruth acknowledged that children represenr over 57% of the population in Uganda (file photo)

KAMPALA – A new report has accused government for merely ratifying the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, through its legislation but failing to implement it on ground.

The 2018 report that assesses how Uganda is implementing and performing against its commitments made since the ratification of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1990, says children remain the poorest and most abused in Uganda.

The Uganda Human Rights Commission and UNICEF report launched 17 July at Golf Course Hotel says despite sustained levels of economic growth and progress in reducing poverty, children still suffer from poverty, abuse, neglect, and preventable diseases, unequal access to education and justice systems, a new assessment report has said.

The report titled; An assessment of the compatibility of Ugandan legislation with the convention on rights of the child wants the standards and principles articulated in the CRC to be respected by everyone within the family, in schools and other institutions that provide services for children, in communities and at all levels of administration in order to become a reality.

The study reveals that although some legislation was compatible with the CRC including legislation related to nationality; child protection; alternative care; juvenile justice; crimes against children; and the treatment of child victims in Uganda, other legislation has gaps and does not comply with some of the standards in the CRC and other international and regional human rights treaties.

Ms Ruth Ssekindi, Director Monitoring and Inspections at UHRC while presenting the report said the findings from the assessment of 37 statutes of the CRC, are aimed at providing solutions to the various challenges that still remain in realising the rights of children in Uganda; children make up more than half of the population (57 percent), and in particular to guide the relevant legislative reforms.

She explained that the assessment carried out across the country presents an evaluation of the compatibility of the legislation of Uganda with the rights and principles recognised by the convention and its two optional protocols to which Uganda became party in 2001 and 2002 respectively.

She said the main objectives of the assessment conducted by the UHRC were to identify legislative provisions that are incompatible with international standards and identify gaps where the legislation fails to recognise, or does not adequately recognise or protect, internationally recognised rights and principles with a view to help guide required legislative and policy reforms.

The report recommends that the relevant legislation such as the Registration of Persons Act, the Refugee Act and the Children Act should be amended to recognise the obligation of authorities to register the birth, in Uganda, of children of refugees and asylum seekers.

The report adds that sections 1(2) (b), 14(2) (b) and 25(e) of the Registration of Persons Act (2015) should be amended to eliminate the provisions that discriminate against refugees and that the constitution should be amended to recognise the right of children born in Uganda to Ugandan citizenship, if they would otherwise be stateless.

“And the law should oblige hospitals to take measures to prevent the theft of newborns and the Children Act should be amended to expressly provide that children should be placed in approved homes only if no other suitable form of alternative care is available in Uganda,” reads the report in part.

The report provides that the provisions of the Children Act on inter-country adoption should be amended to provide that inter-country adoption may be authorised only if no suitable form of alternative care for the child is available in Uganda and only if the norms and standards concerning adoption in the other jurisdiction provide safeguards and guarantees equivalent or superior to those recognised by the law of Uganda.

The report wants the Children Act to be amended to prohibit guardians from taking children in their care out of the country in order to prevent circumvention of the provisions of the Act on inter-country adoption.

Dr. Doreen Mulenga, UNICEF Representative in Uganda said that in the report, UHRC assesses Uganda’s legislation against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child commitments, to make Uganda a better place for children to live and provides recommendations.

“This report launched today is important because it is a comprehensive assessment and it presents recommendations about what more needs to be done across Uganda to continue to progressively fulfill the rights of all children,” said Dr Mulenga.

While reacting to the report, Mr. Med Kaggwa, the Chairperson of Uganda Human Rights Commission said S.43 (1), 43A (2) and 43C (4)) of the Children Act should be revised to ensure that provisions on temporary forms of alternative care take account of the special needs of unaccompanied refugee children.

“It is our wish that all the government agencies to whom recommendations have been made take action accordingly so that Uganda’s legislation can enhance the respect for human rights, particularly the protection of the rights of children,” said Mr. Kaggwa.

He explained that the standards and principles to promote and protect child rights can only become a reality when they are respected by everyone within the family, in schools, communities, and other institutions that provide services to children.

The report analyses the compatibility of 37 statutes with Uganda’s obligations under the CRC and related treaties and makes recommendations in the areas of The right to identity, Child protection, Alternative care, Juvenile justice, Crimes against children, The rights and treatment of child victims of crime, The right to health, The right to education, The rights of children with disabilities and marriage, divorce and property.

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