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Parliament Drops Clause Criminalizing ‘Marital Rape’ In Revised Bill

The move  to criminalise marital rape in the Sexual Offences Bill 2019 failed after proponents of the Bill backed off the plans.

The MPs wanted to criminalise what they termed as marital as marital rape as a way of fighting against domestic violence in Uganda.

Fronted by Monicah Amoding (Kumi Woman MP), the first copy of the bill was tabled before Parliament in 2015.

The Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah asked the mover to withdraw the bill after what he termed enormous changes introduced in the first bill.

In November 2019, Amoding introduced a fresh bill incorporating in a number of changes, while dropping a number of contentious clauses like the proposal seeking to criminalise marital rape.

In her earlier bill, Amoding had proposed that any person who forcefully performs a sexual act on another person, without consent or with consent if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind or by fear of bodily harm, or by means of false representation as to the nature of the act, or in the case of married person by personating his or her spouse commits the felony termed rape and shall on conviction be liable to life imprisonment

She further proposed in section 2(2) to criminalise marital rape noting that where the spouses are living together, a spouse may refuse consent to a sexual act on any ground which may include; poor health or medical condition of the spouse refusing to perform a sexual act and evidence or reasonable fear that engaging in a sexual act is likely to cause injury or harm to the spouse refusing to perform a sexual act.

Amoding had earlier proposed that a spouse who performs a sexual act with his or her spouse without the consent of that spouse whether the spouses are living together or in separation, commits an offence known as marital sexual assault and is liable upon conviction to imprisonment to a period not less than one years or a fine of not less than twenty four currency points equivalent to Shs480,000.

However in the new bill that is under scrutiny by the Legal Committee, the proposal was dropped, a move if upheld by Parliament will worsen the fight against domestic violence in Uganda.

In the 2019 Annual Crime Report, Uganda Police recorded 1,528 cases of rape compared to 1,580 cases reported in 2018, giving a decrease of 3.2%. Of the reported cases, a total of 1,531 women were victims of rape.

In the same year, Police recorded 13,693 cases of Domestic Violence compared to 13,916 in 2018, giving a 1.9% decrease. The force noted that of the 14,232 victims of Domestic Violence, 2,908 were male adults, while 9,978 were female adults and 670 were male juveniles while 676 were female juveniles.

Marital rape was a contentious subject when the bill was first introduced with opponents of the proposal describing the proposal as intrusive, one intended to regulate bedrooms affairs between couples.

While tabling the Bill, Amoding said the legislation is intended to enact a specific law on sexual offences for the effectual prevention of sexual violence; to enhance punishment of sexual offenders; to provide for the protection of victims during sexual offences trials; to provide for extra territorial application of the law; to repeal some provisions of the Penal Code Act, Cap. 120.

Although marital rape has been dropped, the criminalizing rape has been maintained with the bill proposing that person who performs a sexual act with another person- without that other person’s consent; or incapable of consenting to the sexual act commits an offence and is liable on conviction, to imprisonment for life.

The bill further proposes that where consent has been obtained by; threats, duress, undue influence, misrepresentation or intimidation of any kind would render the consent null.

Further, rape would occur where a person is incapable of consenting to a sexual act if at the time of performance of the sexual act he or she was; asleep, unconscious, in an altered state of consciousness due to the influence of medicine, drug, alcohol or substance that adversely affects his or her judgment or mentally impaired.

Any person who attempts to perform a sexual act in any of the above circumstances) commits an offence, and is liable on conviction, to imprisonment not exceeding eight years.

However, the Committee remains divided definition of Unnatural offences with the bill proposing, A person who; performs a sexual act with another person contrary to the order of nature; or engages in a sexual act with an animal; commits an offence and is liable on conviction, to imprisonment for ten years.

Some MPs have tasked the movers of the bill to unpack the meaning of order of nature, saying the insistence on this section would open a Pandora box towards debate on homosexuality. 

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