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Uganda: Domestic Violence Law

(Mar. 13, 2009) It was reported on March 9, 2009, that the Ugandan Cabinet approved a bill that seeks to rein in domestic violence. The bill will now be presented to the Parliament. This bill makes engaging in domestic violence an offense punishable by a fine of up to 48 currency points (UGX96,000 or about US$48) and/or imprisonment not to exceed two years. The bill also proposes as a possible civil remedy against domestic violence allowing the court to award a victim of domestic violence compensatory damages that it deems appropriate, based on the guidelines and procedures that it provides. (Arthur Baguma, Domestic Violence Bill Could Help Fight Silent Deaths, THE NEW VISION (Kampala), Mar. 9, 2009, available at http://allafrica.com/stories/200903100041.html.)

Some have argued that the penalties envisaged under the bill should be harsher in order to be an effective deterrent, given that in their view most perpetrators of domestic violence are usually wealthy and their victims are their dependents with no voice. It has also been argued that the punishments should be categorized on the basis of gravity of offenses, instead of just simply imposing a blanket sanction on all domestic violence. (Id.)

Speaking about the importance of the bill, former Ethics Minister and activist working for women's rights Miria Matembe argued that passing the bill would put Uganda a step ahead in fighting domestic violence by making domestic violence, now a private matter, a public issue. Matembe challenged enforcement agencies such as the police and courts, once the bill becomes law, to stop looking at domestic violence as a private matter that should be resolved at home and to start treating it as a criminal issue. (Id.)