|Women and the 1995 Constitution of Uganda (Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development - Uganda - WIDDANDA, 1995, 22 p.)|
1.1 The new Constitution of Uganda which came into force on 8th October, 1995, replaces the 1967 Constitution which had been in force until then. The new Constitution reflects the proposals and views of the people of Uganda which were given to the Uganda Constitutional Commission between 1989 and 1993, and as articulated by delegates in the Constituent Assembly, in 1994-95.
1.2 The 1967 Constitution provided for equality of all, but it did not prohibit discrimination on ground of sex and allowed discrimination in matters of personal law e.g. adoption, succession or inheritance. It also did not have any provisions for affirmative action or positive discrimination in favour of women.
1.3 The 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda is different from the 1967 Constitution in that it provides for equality between the sexes and for affirmative action in favour of women. The new Constitution contains a number of provisions for the protection and promotion of the rights, interest and welfare of women, the family, children, people with disability, and other disadvantaged groups in our society.
The Constitution-Making Process
The new constitution contains a number of provisions for the protection and welfare of women, the family, children, people with disability, and other disadvantaged groups in our society
1.4 The process of making the new Constitution started formally with the setting up the Uganda Constitutional Commission in 1988 and it ended on 8th October, 1995 with the coming into force of the new Constitution which was enacted by the Constituent Assembly on 22nd September 1995.
1.5 The Uganda Constitutional Commission took approximately four years to come out with a report, including a draft Constitution which formed the basis of the new Constitution of Uganda. The Uganda Constitutional Commission was required to collect the peoples views on the type of the Constitution they wanted for Uganda. The process of arriving at the new Constitution was designed to involve as many people as possible to reach at a consensus on the type of Constitution that would be acceptable to all Ugandans.
1.6 The Uganda Constitutional Commission organised Seminars and collected views from individuals, institutions of higher education, interest groups and communities from all parts of Uganda from 1989 to 1993. It was noted that only few women participated in the meetings and discussions, and fewer still submitted written memoranda to the Commission. When this was realized, the then Ministry of Women in Development organised special seminars for sensitizing women and collecting their views at the national, district and county levels. This gave the opportunity for women to have an additional channel for giving their views on what they wanted to be included in the new Constitution, especially in as far as they concerned the rights of women.
1.7 The views collected from the women, as a result of the special programme organised by the Ministry, resulted in the collection and compilation of a Report entitled The Recommendations of the women of Uganda to the Uganda Constitutional Commission. This report was submitted to the Uganda Constitutional Commission and duly considered with other views in formulating the proposals made in the Draft Constitution prepared by the Commission. The Draft Constitution formed the basis of the new Constitution.
1.8 The Draft Constitution took into account the views and concerns of women for example harmful cultural practices, maternity rights, affirmative action, equality and discrimination on ground of sex. These provisions in the Draft Constitution concerning women were also in Agreement with the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
1.9 The then Ministry of Women in Development, Culture and Youth, now Ministry of Gender and Community Development, through the WID/DANIDA Constituent Assembly Project, kept up the work to ensure that the provisions in the Draft Constitution which were favourable to women were passed by the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly was also lobbied to make changes to those clauses in the Draft Constitution which failed to meet the aspirations of women and to include new provisions in the new Constitution to cater for the rights and interest of women.
1.10 Under the WID/DANIDA Constituent Assembly Project, women were sensitized before the election of delegates to the Constituent Assembly. This was to enable the women at the grass-roots to articulate to the candidates, and ultimately the delegates, to the Constituent Assembly the concerns and expectation of the women in the new Constitution.
1.11 At the end of sensitization exercise, the Project prepared a booklet entitled Women in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, outlining the various clauses in Draft Constitution which provided for equality between the sexes and affirmative action, as well as those areas that needed improvement or changes. Where new provisions were considered necessary, proposals were made for consideration by the Constituent Assembly. The booklet was distributed to all Constituent Assembly delegates.
1.12 During the time the Constituent Assembly was deliberating on the Draft Constitution, the Ministry of Gender through the WID/DANIDA CA Project continued to organise Seminars for women delegates and to lobby all Constituent Assembly delegates on the need for a Constitution which would cater for the rights, interest and welfare of the women.
1.13 The efforts of the Ministry of Gender and Community Development, Women NGOs and all who wanted the new Constitution to be gender sensitive were rewarded with a document which meets their expectations.
Uganda now leads the way in Africa by coming up with a Constitution which lays a firm foundation for the advancement and emancipation of women.
Implication of the New Constitution for women
A lot of work still needs to be done to ensure that the Constitution is implemented to conform to the articles in it regarding women.
1.14 The women of Uganda have high expectations in the Constitution. It has given them recognition as no other Constitution had done before. It has made specific provisions regarding them. It has given them not only hope but assurance and recognition.
1.15 The Constitution is the basic law of the country. It is the most important law in the land, and any other laws, traditions, customs and acts which do not agree with it are unlawful. This is of great importance to the women of Uganda. The new Constitution gives them the legal basis upon which to advance their economic, political and social status.
1.16 The promulgation of the new Constitution does not mean that the situation of women will automatically improve. A lot of work still needs to be done to ensure that the Constitution is implemented to conform to the articles in it regarding women.
1.17 Many laws on our Statute books, as well as our customs, traditions and practices are now clearly not in agreement with basic law of the land. These must now be changed to conform to the Constitution. The composition of Government and its organs both at the central and local levels, constitutional bodies, administrative organs etc. must now change to reflect the letter and spirit of the new Constitution. Government policies must now take into account equality of the sexes and the need for affirmative action in favour of women. The courts of law and administrative tribunals are now bound to interpret the law and regulations in the light of the provisions of the new Constitution. It is also clear that there will have to be a fundamental change in attitude towards women and the way they are treated at the individual and society levels.
1.18 While it is possible to abolish or change discriminative laws within a short time, it will take a much longer time to change the attitude of society towards women. A lot of work still needs to be done by the Ministry of Gender and Community Development, women Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and others to sensitize both men and women on the implications of the new Constitution regarding domestic relations, property rights, inheritance, among other things outdated customs and traditions which treat women as inferior to men or discriminate against them, or are harmful to their physical and mental well-being, will need to be abolished or modified. In summary it is necessary to make radical changes in our present attitude towards, and treatment of, women in our society if the constitutional provisions regarding women are to have any meaning for them.
Apart from the introduction, this Booklet contains three other Chapters.
Chapter Two highlights and elaborates on the specific provisions concerning women in the Constitution.
In Chapter three, there is a discussion on specific aspects of the laws affecting women that need to be reformed to bring them in line with the Constitution.
Finally Chapter Four contains recommendations on priority areas for action that women need to address in order to realise their interests contained in the Constitution.