The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) as the national human rights institution constitutionally established to promote and protect human rights in Uganda is deeply concerned about the public reaction to the two recently enacted laws namely the Anti-Pornography Act 2014 and the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014.
Whereas the UHRC appreciates government’s efforts to fulfill its Constitutional duty and obligation to entrench the rule of law by enacting laws, it has been our view that in cases where there are laws already in place like in the case of the above two laws, government should strengthen the existing laws as opposed to enacting new ones.
The above notwithstanding, the Uganda Human Rights Commission strongly condemns the recent reports of beating and stripping women for purportedly wearing miniskirts, dresses and trousers arising out of the recent enactment of the Anti-Pornography law. The UHRC notes that such actions by some members of the public are a violation of fundamental rights of the victims and pose a serious threat to the sanctity of human dignity; violate the right to privacy and the right of women to be protected against violence. Such acts of mob justice are a manifestation of the growing lawlessness and mob justice which the UHRC has repeatedly condemned since they threaten the fundamental principles of human rights and respect for the rule of law.
The UHRC notes that the objectives of the Anti-Pornography Act 2014 were to among other things provide for the prohibition and definition of pornography. The Act provides that pornography means: ‘the representation through publication, exhibition, cinematography, indecent show, information technology or by whatever means of a person engaged in real or stimulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual excitement.’ We note however that most of the media and some leaders have interpreted the Act to be a law on ‘miniskirts and short dresses’ despite the fact that the definition of pornography given therein and the subsequent sections of the law do not provide for miniskirts and short dresses.
UHRC further notes that the disclosure of names and photographs of alleged gay persons by some of the media publications violates the right to privacy which is enshrined in Article 27 (2) and the presumption of innocence until one is proven guilty by a competent court of law provided for under Article 28 (3) (a) of the Constitution of Uganda. The Uganda Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned that such reports if not checked may lead to discrimination and hostility and have the potential of inciting violence and mob justice against such people.
The Uganda Human Rights Commission which is mandated to offer guidance on emerging human rights issues in the country here below points out a number of concerns that require urgent attention and action by government, the media, members of the public and other stakeholders. The UHRC therefore recommends that:
- government should urgently re-consider the Anti-pornography law to ensure that any ambiguities are rectified;
- members of the public should desist from taking the law into their own hands and avoid acts of mob justice which are punishable under the law;
- the media should report responsibly on sensitive laws to avoid violating people’s rights to privacy and inciting the public and
- police should promptly take action against any person found engaging in mob justice.
In conclusion therefore, the Uganda Human Rights calls upon members of the public, the media and other stakeholders to uphold Article 28 (2) (a) of the Constitution which calls for the presumption of innocence until one is proven guilty by a competent court of law. We appeal for restraint from mob action as this may incite the public into deplorable acts of ‘cleansing’ of suspected victims within their communities.
For God and My Country
Med S. K Kaggwa
Chairperson/Uganda Human Rights Commission