Ephraim Kamuntu, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, has asked the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to halt the processing of the Sexual Offences Bill 2019, so as to allow Government to carry out consultations with stakeholders.
Kamuntu made the request today while appearing before the Legal Committee to submit Government’s position on the proposed amendments moved by Monicah Amoding (Kumi Woman MP) in November 2019.
Amoding first introduced the Sexual Offences Bill 2019 in 2015 before the bill underwent enormous changes, prompting Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah to ask her to table a new bill in 2019.
Introduced as a private member’s bill, Amoding defended the the tabling of the bill saying that whereas the Penal Code Act, Cap. 120 provides for a number of sexual offences, the provisions are outdated and the ingredients constituting the offences are narrow given the fact that they do not reflect the evolving trends in social attitudes, values and sexual practices.
However, Government rejected the justification for the new proposals with Minister Kamuntu asking Parliament to carry out a comprehensive study on the proposals.
“The comprehensive analysis of the provisions of the Sexual Offences Bill 2019 and the Penal Code be undertaken to ensure that the statute book is not distorted with duplication of laws which contain nearly similar provisions,” Kamuntu said.
The Minister instead asked to have the scrutiny of the Bill halted and an opportunity be given to Government to process the bill to comprehensively address the issues relating to prosecution of sexual offences.
However, the Minister’s request was rejected by Jovah Kamateeka (Mitooma Woman) who said for eight years, there have been calls to Government to bring the said legislation and the Ministry of Justice declined, prompting the private member to bring the legislation.
“Are you aware that the issues contained in the Sexual Offences Bill 2019 have been under consultation for the last 14years? Are you also aware that there is nothing to stop Government from working on this bill but Government failed, so the MP had to come in? So how can you say allow consultations, who has stopped you from doing your work?” she said.
Minister Kamuntu admitted delays in tabling the legislation.
“Yes it is true sometimes the bureaucracy of Government is slow, but there is political will to have things done on time,” he said.
Details About Sexual Offences Bill
The bill seeks to introduce new aspects not provided for in the other laws like; Sexual assault with the bill proposing; A person who unlawfully-(a) touches the anus, breasts, penis, buttocks, thighs or vagina of another person; exposes or displays his or her sexual organ to another person; 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 be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen by another person; or intrudes 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.
In the proposed legislation seeks to criminalise sexual harassment where offenders would be jailed for ten years.
The Bill called for the establishment of sex offenders register that would be managed by NIRA, and the convicts would be required to share their details within 10days after conviction.