|Bringing Equality Home - Implementing the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (UNIFEM, 1998, 45 p.)|
The Ugandan constitution was rewritten in 1995. To prepare for the drafting of the new constitution, the Government held consultations across the country. Women's NGOs felt strongly that this process was not designed to include women in a significant way, and started their own parallel consultation process. They also mobilised to get women elected to the Constituent Assembly, which would be drafting the constitution. Once the Constituent Assembly had been established, its women members formed a women's caucus to develop a united position on the proposals that would come before the assembly.
The women working on proposals for the new constitution referred to CEDAW as establishing a minimum acceptable standard, and the Convention is reflected in a number of important provisions of the Ugandan constitution. Its first provision, which declares the constitution's guiding principles, states that the need for gender balance and fair representation is to inform the implementation of the constitution and all Government policies and programmes. The constitution's Bill of Rights states that the rights it sets out are to be enjoyed without discrimination on the basis of sex.
The Ugandan constitution also contains powerful guarantees about women's political participation which are the direct result of the NGO advocacy efforts. The NGOs had relied on CEDAW's conceptualisation of equality, which recognises the need for temporary special measures to speed the achievement of equality and provides that these measures are not discriminatory (CEDAW, article 4). They argued that because of the history of discrimination against women in Uganda, the only effective way to guarantee equality in political representation would be to reserve a certain portion of elected seats for women candidates. They were successful - the Constitution reserves a minimum number of parliamentary seats for women, it requires that each administrative district have at least one woman representative, and it provides that at least one-third of the seats in local Government (city, municipal, and rural district councils) must be filled by women.