By Nasser Kasozi Akandwanaho
Parliament has on Tuesday passed the sexual offenses Bill 2019 into law, criminalizing the buying of sex workers and dealing with the trade.
Section 10 of the new law, states that a person who, for gain for himself, herself or another person, causes, encourages/induces, entices, or incites another person to be sexually exploited, controls any of the activities of another person to the effect that that person is sexually exploited, commits an offense and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not exceeding 15 years.
Where the victim of the offense is a child, the law provides that the person charged of sexual exploitation shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for life.
“The consent of a victim to the sexual exploitation shall not be a defense to a charge,” states the law.
MPs observed that the current legal regimes such as the penal code have only been concentrating on penalization of sex workers call them prostitutes leaving out those engaged in the promotion of the trade especially the dealers and buyers.
According to the committee report on sexual offenses Bill, the offense of sexual exploitation, which the law defines as prostitution, has always, existed in the penal Code and the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2009, except that under the Penal Code, it is taken to be an offense associated with living on the earnings of prostitution.
The MPs noted that under the Prevention of trafficking in persons Act, sexual exploitation is not a standalone offense but an example of exploitation, a matter that has to be proved in the offense of trafficking.
“This means that sexual exploitation is not a standalone offence under the Prevention of Trafficking in persons Act, meaning, it cannot be prosecuted in its own right, independent of the trafficking offence.
The Bill now creates a standalone offence of sexual exploitation and defines sexual exploitation as, ‘sexual exploitation” means the use of a person in prostitution, sex tourism, pornography, the production of pornographic materials or the use of a person for sexual conduct or other lascivious conduct” Jacob Oboth, the chairperson legal and Parliamentary affairs committee said.
The MPs noted that incidents of sexual exploitation are on the rise in Uganda adding that there is need to specifically put an end to such vices.
“The Committee is aware that stories of Ugandan migrant workers in the Middle East and other parts of the Diaspora are reported almost daily in Ugandan media. The majority of Ugandan migrant workers in the Middle East report being sexually exploited in form of forced sexual intercourse, forced prostitution, forced pornography production and sex slavery,” read the report.
The legislators noted that the same vice has been reported amongst some sections of Ugandan society where persons are lured to urban areas with promises of employment and end up being sexually abused, which they said the new law will cure.
Parliament also deleted clause 36 of the Bill, which proposed to allow a person, who had consented to a sexual act to withdraw that consent at any time before or during the performance of the sexual act.
Majority of the women legislators put up a spirited fight to have the provision part of the law, saying it would protect women from sexual exploitation.
“ If I know that my husband was caught with some prostitute and I know that, that prostitute is sick (HIV/AIDS) and wants to force me into an act, whatever he does thereafter is rape because I know he is bringing a disease and I cannot consent ,” Cecilia Ogwa said.
However their male counterparts opposed the provision saying women would use it to claim rape and extort money from men.
The MPs also noted that the provision is redundant since it is already catered for in the offense of rape, where in, the offense is committed when a person does a sexual act with a person without that persons’ consent.
According to the MPs, the provision is impractical since it didn’t specify the nature of withdrawal and when it is effective.
“In the context of African Marriage, this concept of consent can be foreign to us and therefore it needs to be studied, educate people so that they understand it properly,” David Bahati said.
The House however approved clause 33 of the Bill, which provides for disclosure of sexual offenses record.
According to the law, a person who has been convicted of an offence under this Act, shall disclose such conviction when applying for employment which places him or her in a position of authority or care of children or any other vulnerable person or when offering or agreeing to take care of or supervise children or any other vulnerable person.
It also provides that a person, who doesn’t comply with subsection (1) of the clause, commits an offence and is liable on conviction, to imprisonment not exceeding seven years and termination from the said employment.
As a way of reintroducing the ban on homosexuality, the House chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, approved clause 11 of the Bill, which criminalizes same sex intercourse in Uganda.
In 2014, Parliament passed the Anti-homosexuality Bill, which was later recalled, after a court case challenging the manner in which it was passed, without Quorum.
However in the new law, Parliament voted yes to banning of homosexuality, where offenders risk a five-year imprisonment.
“For completeness, clause 11 should stand part of the Bill albeit with the amendments that the ingredients of the offence are defined to include, the penetration of another person’s anus with that other person’s sexual organ or with any object and a ban on a sexual act between persons of the same gender,” Oboth said.
The law makes it criminal where a person performs a sexual act with another person contrary to the order of nature, or engages in a sexual act with an animal.
On sexual assault, the new law also punishes a person who unlawfully, touches the anus, breasts, penis, buttocks, thighs or vagina of another person and also exposes or displays his or her sexual organ to another person.
The law also makes it criminal for anyone, who exposes or displays the sexual organ of another person, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall he heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen .
It also criminalizes acts of intrusion upon the privacy of a person, with intent to insult the modesty of that other person, commits an offence and is liable on conviction, to imprisonment for a term of one year or a fine of twenty four currency points or both.
According to the new law, Pastors who consistently touch their followers in purported healing process, risk being jailed for ten years or pay a fine not exceeding sh40m. The law criminalizes unwelcome touches under the guise of spiritual healing, by pastors.
“Spiritual healers who extend unwanted touches to their followers especially touch of the breasts , for girls and women or when a spiritual healer touches a person in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable,” Oboth said.
The law which is waiting presidential assent, also targets employers , educationists , health professionals , who make direct or indirect sexual advances or requests whether verbal or written to their employees, prospecting employee , student , patient or other persons under their trust as a pre condition for the grant of the required service .
The Private members Bill was sponsored by the Ugandan women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA). It was introduced by Kumi district woman MP Monica Amonding.
The law seeks to provide for extraterritorial application of the law and repeal of some provisions of the penal code Act, cap 120, and for other related matters.