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Article Uganda: Parliament Passes Amendments to Children Act

(Mar. 17, 2016) On March 2, 2016, the 388member unicameral Ugandan Parliament passed the Children (Amendment) Bill, 2015, the goal of which is “to amend the Children Act, Cap. 59; enhance protection of a child; provide for the guardianship of children; provide for inter country adoption; prohibit corporal punishment and provide for related matters.”  (The Children (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2015: Memorandum (Feb. 13, 2015), PARLIAMENT WATCH UGANDA (scroll down to view text of Children (Amendment) Bill, 2015); Parliament Passes Children Bill; Restricts  Guardianship to Nationals, PARLIAMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA (Mar. 2, 2016).)  To become law, the legislation must either be signed by the President or be passed again by Parliament with the support of at least two-thirds of all its members. (Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995, § 91, State House of Uganda website.)

Duty to Report Violence Against Children

The legislation would add to the Children Act a provision on the protection of children from all forms of violence.  It states, ”[e]very child has a right to be protected against all forms of violence including sexual abuse and exploitation, child sacrifice, child labour, child marriage, child trafficking, institutional abuse, female genital mutilation, and any other form of physical and emotional abuse.”  (Children (Amendment) Bill, 2015, § 10.)  Anyone who reasonably believes that a child is being abused, is neglected, or is under  imminent danger of being abused or injured may report the matter to the designated authority.  (Id.)  Reporting is mandatory for medical practitioners, social workers, and teachers with regard to children under their care.  (Id.)

Corporal Punishment

The legislation would outlaw corporal punishment in schools.  It states that a “person of authority in institutions of learning shall not subject a child to any form of corporal punishment.”  (Id. § 24.)  This includes “any punishment in which physical force is intentionally used to cause pain or injury to a child, and includes punishment which is intended to belittle, humiliate or ridicule a child.”  (Id. § 2.)  Violation of this ban is an offense, punishable on conviction by a fine and/or a prison term not exceeding three years.  (Id. § 24.) A previous version of this provision that had sought to impose an absolute prohibition on the practice was reportedly withdrawn and replaced by one limited in application to educational institutions.  (Corporal Punishment of Children in Uganda, GLOBAL INITIATIVE TO END ALL CORPORAL PUNISHMENT OF CHILDREN (last updated Mar. 2016).)

Right to Protective Services

The legislation would also add to the Children Act a provision according every child the right to protective services.  (Id. § 10.)  It requires the government to “ensure that designated child protection services are available and accessible to children.”  (Id.)  These include services for the placement of children into alternative care or their reunification with their families afterwards; adoption of children; investigations of alleged cases of abuse, neglect, or abandonment of children; intervention and removal of children in situations warranting such action; and providing protection for children whenever they interact with the country’s justice system, whether as defendants, victims, or witnesses.  (Id.)


The legislation would add to the Children Act a chapter on guardianship, with stringent requirements.  This part of the legislation is aimed at restricting the reported abuse by outsiders of the country’s existing lax guardianship rules.  (Parliament Passes Children Bill; Restricts  Guardianship to Nationals, supra.)  As such, the provisions in this section are imposed on foreigners and citizens who do not reside in Uganda.  (Children (Amendment) Bill, 2015, § 11.)  An application for guardianship must be made before the High Court and the Court may issue a favorable order only if it is satisfied that:

  • the applicant has continuously lived in Uganda for a minimum of one year;
  • the applicant does not have a criminal record and obtains a recommendation regarding his/her fitness to be a guardian from the relevant authority in the applicant’s country of origin;
  • the guardianship order will be recognized in the applicant’s country of origin; and
  • the applicant has not ”made, given or agreed to make any payment or other reward in consideration of the guardianship.”  (Id.)

The legislation imposes certain reporting requirements on would-be guardians.  Guardians who reside outside of Uganda must submit “annual progressive reports” to a probation and social welfare authority and the Ugandan Mission in the country of residence.  (Id.)  This entails providing information “detailing the welfare of the child, the adoption [sic] of the child to his or her new environment and any changes in the guardian’s status of living.”  (Id.)  Any change of address must also be reported.  (Id.)  Upon receiving the report, the probation and social welfare authority is required to pass it along to the court that issued the guardianship order and the minister responsible for child affairs in Uganda.  (Id.)  If the guardian fails to comply with this or other applicable conditions, the court can revoke the guardianship order.  (Id.)


Conversely, the legislation would soften some of the requirements for procuring inter-country adoption.  For instance, it shortens the length of time that an applicant for adoption must foster the child in question in order to be eligible for adoption from 36 months down to 24 months.  (Id. § 13.)  The legislation also authorizes the High Court to waive certain requirements in “exceptional circumstances,” including a requirement mandating that prospective applicants  reside in Uganda for at least three years before making an application.  (Id.; Children Act, § 46, Cap. 59 (1997), ICRC website)

However, the legislation provides that inter-country adoption must be a solution of last resort, stating, “inter-country adoption shall be considered as the last option available to orphaned, abandoned or legally relinquished children, along the continuum of comprehensive child welfare services.”  (Children (Amendment) Bill, 2015, § 13.)

The legislation would introduce a provision for the cancellation of adoption orders in certain circumstances.  This may occur if an order was obtained through fraud or misrepresentation or if doing so is in the best interests of the child.  (Id. § 14.)

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