By World Vision Communications & Advocacy Staff in Uganda
Recognising that violence against children is a global problem, World Vision embarked on all-inclusive five-year-ending violence against children campaign called, “It Takes A World” (ITAW) The campaign is a bold expression of our intent to promote human transformation, seek justice, and uphold the rights of children. World Vision celebrates the recent passing of two bills that seek to protect children from the most heinous of crimes.
Sexual Offences Bill
On 3 May 2021, the Parliament of Uganda passed the Sexual Offences Bill 2019 which criminalises marriages involving children and other sexual offences against children; such as defilement, child pornography, sexual abuse in schools, and child sex tourism among others. This is the first legislation that fully addresses the issue of child marriage, which is very prevalent in Uganda: One in four girls is married off before her 18th birthday.
Working with partners like Plan International, Girls Not Brides, Uganda Women Parliamentarians Association (UWOPA), and Youth Advocacy Network (YADNET) among others, World Vision contributed to influencing the 10th Parliament to pass the bill introduced by Kumi Woman Member of Parliament, Hon. Monicah Amoding.
Prevention and Prohibition of Human Sacrifice Bill
The next day, on 4 May 2021, the Prevention and Prohibition of Human Sacrifice Bill was also passed. World Vision mobilised and engaged stakeholders to influence national legislation against child sacrifice. The Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Children (UPFC), Children on the Edge Africa, Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, and Uganda Children Rights NGO Network (UCRNN) generated research that informed the drafting of the bill in 2017.
Both the Sexual Offences Act and the Prevention and Prohibition of Human Sacrifice Act are critical laws in ending violence against children. Uganda loses over US$30 million annually through human sacrifice and organ trade which mainly targets children because of their vulnerability and cultural beliefs that their blood and bodies are “pure” and suitable for sacrifice. Legislation that criminalises human sacrifice, the use of body parts for rituals, and unlawful possession of human body parts is one step towards giving legal protection to the children who could easily be part of the 2.4 million people that globally fall victims to sacrifice and organ trade.
The Sexual Offences Act will offer legal protection to more than 79.5% of Uganda's primary and secondary school students that are victims of sexual harassment while at school. Ministry of Education and Sports figures show that more than 24% of teenage pregnancies are due to early marriage and defilement by teachers. The Act will also protect children against the notions of capitalism that are push factors for the recruitment of children into child prostitution, child sex tourism, child pornography, and also child marriage in the hope of getting bride wealth/price.
World Vision’s Role
At the launch of the ITAW campaign in 2017, child sacrifice was rampant in Uganda and intensified by the lack of legislation around human sacrifice. Building on the success and lessons of the Amber Alert Project in the United States, the issue of ending child sacrifice was integrated into the campaign for both national and local level advocacy against the barbaric practice.
World Vision also facilitated consultations with Judicial Officers, members and leaders of Traditional Healers’ Associations, religious leaders, academia, and civil society actors and was at hand to provide the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee with expert opinions during the scrutiny of the bill at the committee level.
When the ITAW campaign was launched, very few believed that only four years down the lane, two legislations addressing two key areas of the campaign—child marriage and sacrifice would be passed by the Parliament of Uganda.
The Path Forward
Going forward, we know that legislation alone is not enough. But this creates a starting point for different actors to push forward and act towards a world that is free of violence against children.
World Vision will continue with enhanced legislative advocacy and influence the legislative agenda of the incoming 11th Parliament. Post-legislative scrutiny and ministerial regulations will be crucial to ensuring that the acts that have been enacted and achieve their purpose. World Vision will continue to support and influence the Government to enforce the laws.
Legislation is also more effective where the principles of delegated legislation are applied. Therefore, World Vision will work towards localising these acts in the 48 Area Programmes (APs) where the organisation operates, through influencing regulation at the district level and by-laws at the sub-county level. With the adoption of these legislations, the 10th Parliament has truly demonstrated its deep concern for children’s safety and answered the call of many children and families.
For World Vision, the work has just begun in the fight for children’s rights. We can move with greater faith that collectively we can create a safe environment for our children to thrive.
As a child-focused organisation, World Vision remains committed to the cause and will continue to engage the Government and other stakeholders to ensure that these bills are not only enforced but children are fully protected from all forms of violence. To learn more about the ITAW campaign in Uganda, click here.