Persons convicted of sexual offences will have their data registered with the National Identification and Registration Authority (Nira), according to the Sexual Offences Bill, 2019 that Parliament passed on Monday night.
The Legal and Parliamentary Committee chairperson, Mr Jacob Oboth Oboth (NRM, West Budama South) presented the Bill in Parliament on Monday afternoon. He asked the House to create a sex offender’s register, which will be linked to the Nira system and information shared within 10 days on conviction of the offenders.
“The register shall be managed and maintained in electronic or other form by the authority. A person convicted of an offence under this Act shall have his or her particulars captured in the register,” the Bill, which now awaits President Museveni’s signature, reads in part.
He said any person who utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, makes direct or indirect sexual advances or requests whether verbal or written, commits an offence.
“A person who engages in unwelcome touch, patting, pinching or any other unsolicited physical contact with or makes sexually oriented comments, jokes, obscene expressions or offensive flirtations with an employee, student, patient or other person under his or her authority, knowing or having reason to believe that such conduct is not welcome or offensive…commits an offence and is liable on conviction, to a fine not exceeding 2,000 currency points (Shs40 million),” Mr Oboth said.
But some MPs opposed some offences like the issue of “sound” and “gesture”, saying these will accelerate divorce and fail many from joining the marriage institution.
Others called for a law that also protects the male child, arguing that the proposals concentrated on the females alone.
Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal said while they support the Bill, there were no punitive measures included in the Bill for females who sexually entice their male counterparts through the way they dress.
“It is not only women who are vulnerable. We have seen women who dress unthinkably and walk into offices, will that law apply across? We do not want men to think we are being overzealous. Under what circumstance will I hold a woman for dressing scantly and presenting herself in office exposing her breasts and bending to give me a file?” Ms Ogwal asked.
She was supported by, among others, Kumi Municipality MP Silas Aogon and Mr Innocent Pentangon Kamusime (Butemba County), who wondered whether the law wasn’t favouring women at the expense of men.
“If you are going to say there are no gestures, are we not going to have all the men in Uganda in jail? Families start from these gestures,” Mr Aogon noted.
But State Minister for Planning David Bahati said the Bill was supposed to preserve the African culture and values.
He, however, suggested that sections on foreign concepts like child sex tourism be deleted and the communities be told what they mean before they are included.
“I support this Bill. It will protect values of our society that have lived for generations. They will protect our cultures and above all, preserve the dignity of African society and protect our children,” Mr Bahati said.
Kumi Municipality Woman MP Monicah Amoding, who moved the Bill, defended it and explained that sections of her private member’s Bill were all provided for and intended to protect the community and vulnerable people in society.
The punishment for sex offenders is a fine of Shs40m, one year in jail or not more than 10 years depending on the offence.
Background (What the Bill addresses:)
● Whereas the Penal Code Act, Cap. 120 provides for a numbers of sexual offences, the provisions are outdated and the ingredients constituting the offences are narrow, given the fact that they do not reflect the evolving trends in social attitudes, values and sexual practices.
● New forms of sexual violence and exploitation have emerged, such as sex tourism, indecent communication and child marriages, which are not provided for, making it difficult to deal with it.
● The Penal Code Act, Act. 120 is also limited in as far as combating sexual violence on Ugandan citizens while outside the country.
● It is necessary to have specific law on sexual offences to provide for the effectual prevention of sexual violence.
Types of sexual offence
● Aggravated rape
● Sexual assault
● Indecent communication
● Sexual harassment
● Detention with sexual intent
● Sexual act with person in custody
● Sexual exploitation
● Unnatural offences
● Aggravated defilement
● Procuring defilement
● Sexual offence by children
● Household permitting defilement
● Supply of sexual content and material to a child
● Child prostitution
● Child sex tourism
● Sexual act in presence of child
● Marriage involving child