Press Supplement – International Women’s Day 2013

By hrapf
In March 8, 2013
On News

Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) joins the rest of the world to commemorate the International Women’s Day 2013.

The day calls for a celebration of the gains made so far in realizing substantive equality for women and also provides a great opportunity to highlight the remaining challenges that still make substantive equality for women a daunting task. This year’s theme is, “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.”

The world has made significant leaps and bounds in the formal protection of women and their rights.

The adoption of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was a great landmark in the history of humanity.

For the first time a binding international instrument laid down obligations for states to fulfil, respect and protect the rights of women. It also called for special measures to address imbalances.

The Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women (Maputo Protocol) declared the commitment of African states to realise substantive equality for African women. Uganda has ratified both instruments, and this is indeed commendable.

At the domestic level, the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda promotes and protects women’s rights, and even provides for affirmative action in order to achieve substantive equality, which led to the enactment of the Equal Opportunities Commission Act in 2007.

The Act established the Equal Opportunities Commission is mandated to “eliminate discrimination and inequalities against any individual …and take affirmative action in favour of groups marginalised on the basis of sex, gender, age, disability or any other reason created by history, tradition or custom for the purpose of redressing imbalances which exist against them.”

To achieve its functions, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) is given powers of a court to investigate ‘any act circumstance, conduct, omission, programme, activity or practice which seems to amount to or constitute discrimination, marginalisation or to otherwise undermine equal opportunities’.

With these wide-ranging powers, the Commission has a huge potential to dramatically change the landscape of Ugandan equality law.

However, the ability of the EOC to achieve its objectives may be curtailed by Section 15(6) (d) of the Act which prevents the Commission from investigating matters involving behaviour that is regarded ‘immoral and socially harmful’ or ‘unacceptable’ by the majority of the cultural groupings and social communities in Uganda.

HRAPF believes that apart from being unconstitutional, this provision defeats the objects and purpose of setting up the Commission.

Imbalances created by culture and history are based on the majority’s conceptualization of what is ‘moral’ or ‘acceptable.’ For example, in some of our communities it is regarded as ‘moral’ and ‘socially acceptable’ for women to not to complain about domestic violence.

Furthermore, who determines what is moral and which test the Commission should apply to determine what the ‘majority of the cultural groupings and social communities in Uganda’ consider immoral, socially harmful and unacceptable?

The case of Jjuuko Adrian v. Attorney-General has been filed to challenge the constitutionality of this provision as contravening our constitutional provisions on equality.

HRAPF calls for a review of section 15(6)(d)which blatantly undermines equality, legitimises patriarchal perceptions, and condones violence against women.

Most violence meted out against women is a consequence of the absence of equal opportunities which creates imbalances against women.

As we celebrate Women’s Day it is worth remembering those women and other marginalised groups who cannot access justice or fair treatment around the world because they are considered social outcasts. Equal opportunities belong to all.

Taking Human Rights to All

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