Godfrey from our local partner organisation in Uganda, Passion 4 Community, recently attended the National Child Justice Convention.
We’ve been addressing the issue of juvenile justice for a long time in Uganda. Godfrey went to share our experience of how to work with children in conflict with the law. Although child protection laws exist in Uganda, they are not always understood or enforced properly. The conference was a good chance for us to share our experience and good practice with other organisations.
Some of the issues and challenges of implementing a good quality, fair and compassionate juvenile justice system in Uganda were identified as:
- The age of criminal liability in Uganda of 12 years need to be revised.
- Other stakeholders like the police and local authorities are failing to embrace a child friendly procedures
- Magistrate Courts often order cash bail for children accused of crimes, which their parents often cannot pay. Non-cash bail alternatives are available and should be used more.
- The remand homes are under-resourced and filled over their capacity. Children often stay in them longer than they should, and there is little in the way of education or rehabilitation services available.
- The problem of age determination is still a great challenge in the formal Justice system (many children do not have birth certificates, so proving their age in the case of alleged sexual offences is very difficult).
- Children are asked inappropriate and intimidating questions when interviewed in court, leaving many of them too scared to reveal information about sexual assaults they have been subjected to.
- ‘Defilement’ is a very common crime in parts of Uganda. For instance out of 1656 inmates in Gulu Central prison ¾ of them are charged with aggravated defilement. (Ugandan law defines defilement as the act of having sex with a girl under 18. Often defilement involves relatives, married men or professional people in the community. Worse still, some men rape or defile their own daughters. Rape and defilement can lead to infertility, trauma, contraction of HIV/Aids, terminal illness or even death.) See this article on The Guardian for more about the problem of defilement in Uganda.
- Many police stations in Uganda lack separate detention facilities for children.
- There is lack of legal aid services and counselling for children in Uganda.