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LEGAL FRAMEWORK (STATUS) FOR CHILDREN JUSTICE IN UGANDA

The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995

The constitution of the Republic of Uganda is the grand norm. This means that all laws in the country must be consistent with it. Article 34 of the constitution, in particular, is concerned with the rights of children. While the constitution has clearly laid down laws to protect the rights of children, the country has been slow to implement these laws. The Constitution provides:

  • 34. Rights of Children
  • 1. Subject to laws enacted in their best interests, children shall have the right to know and be cared for by their parents or those entitled by law to bring them up.
  • 2. A child is entitled to basic education which shall be the responsibility of the State and the parents of the child.
  • 3. No child shall be deprived by any person of medical treatment, education or any other social or economic benefit by reason of religious or other beliefs.
  • 4. Children are entitled to be protected from social or economic exploitation and shall not be employed in or required to perform work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with their education or to be harmful to their health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.
  • 5. For the purposes of clause (4) of this article, children shall be persons under the age of 16 years.
  • 6. A child offender who is kept in lawful custody or detention shall be kept separately from adult offenders.
  • 7. The law shall accord special protection to orphans and other vulnerable children.

The Children Act, 1997 (Cap. 59), Laws of Uganda

The short title to the Act states that the Act consolidates all the laws relating to children and provides for the care, protection and maintenance of children. It establishes a family court for children and makes special provisions for children charged with offences. It also provides for local authorities to have a role in the protection and welfare of children. Courts in Uganda have used the welfare of the child as the guiding principle. In the case of Wafula Vs Wanyoto and Anor, 2014, the applicant abandoned his children and disappeared for 3 years. The respondent successfully applied for a maintenance order. The first respondent (mother) applied for a garnishee order and attached 150,000,000 million on the account of the applicant in Equity Bank. The applicant brought this application for a revision order to free his money from attachment.

The Judge stated:

„.It is not necessary for this Court to make any revision order, as the execution was to protect the welfare of the children. I wish to add that the decision of the lower Court was also in conformity with Article 4 of the African Charter on the rights and welfare of a child, Article 3 of the United Nations convention on the rights of a child, Section 3 and Principle 1 of the first schedule to the children Act, Cap 59, all stipulate that in all decisions concerning children undertaken by any person or authority, the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration.

The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act No. 7 of 2009

In Africa, children are among the most trafficked group. In response to this, the government, in 2009, enacted the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act. Based on this Act, trafficking is an offence and it provides for the prosecution and punishment of offenders. It also has a provision for protection of victims of trafficking and other related matters. An example of the implementation of this Act can be seen in the cases of Uganda vs Mudeega Ali 2011 and Uganda V Umutoni Annette, 2014. In the former, the accused kidnapped a child aged 9 years from his grandmother with the intent to sell him in Kenya for a ritual sacrifice. The police were able to rescue the child and arrested the accused. The court sentenced the accused to 7 years in prison, given that the child was rescued and unharmed. In the latter case, the accused trafficked two girls aged 14 years and 16 years from the Republic of Rwanda on the pretext that she was a born-again Christian who would help the girls receive scholarships in Uganda. She ultimately sold the girls to two men who repeatedly had sex with them. The accused was sentenced to 15 years in prison by the court.

 
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