According to the 2002 National Housing and Population Census, Uganda has a total population of 24.4 million people. But with a Population growth rate of 3,2 per cent, Uganda’s population was estimated to be at 34.1 million as at mid 2012.1
Data on disability prevalence is varied. According to the official 2002 Uganda Population and Housing Census, disability prevalence was estimated at 4 per cent. Identification and measurement of disability prevalence though not specifically stated was based on the definition from the 1980 World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps.2 According to the Census, ‘disability’ was defined
as a physical or mental handicap which has lasted for six months or more, or is expected to last at least six months, which prevents the person from carrying out daily activities independently, or from participating fully in education, economic or social activities.3
In contrast, the Uganda National Household Survey of 2009/2010 estimated disability to be at 16 per cent of Uganda’s then 30.7 million population. This Survey followed a substantial functional limitation approach rather than an impairment based model to identify disability. 4
As already stated, according to the 2002 Population and Housing Census, at least 1 out of every 25 people, or 4 per cent of Uganda’s then 24.4 million population, are disabled. Later studies have however revealed a higher prevalence of disability in Uganda. According to the Uganda National Household Survey, the estimated disability population was 16 per cent or 5 088 000 people out of Uganda’s then estimated 31.7 million population in 2010. 5
According to the 2002 Population and Housing Census, disability prevalence was at 2 per cent amongst children. The National Household Survey on the other hand does not provide an estimate on prevalence rates amongst children.
Uganda signed the CRPD and its optional protocol on 30 March 2007 and ratified both instruments on 25 September 2008 without reservations.7
Uganda submitted its first CRPD country report in March 2013. However, it was due in 2010. The specific reason for the delay is unclear. However, despite having an in-house government department on disability (the Department of Elderly and Disability Affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development) the National Council for Disability was instead directed by government to spearhead the preparation and submission of the national report on the CRPD.8
Generally, most of Uganda’s reports to various UN conventions and regional instruments have not specifically addressed persons with disabilities but instead human rights concerns for all persons. There are however isolated cases of mention made of persons with disabilities, they include:
Yes. To pick one thematic instrument, the CEDAW and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa or Maputo Protocol, have formed the basis for various legislation protecting the rights of women in Uganda. For example, the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, 2010 was adopted in December 2009 to protect women from the harmful cultural practice of female genital mutilation and the Domestic Violence Act was adopted in 2010 to play a critical role in protecting women from violence at home and in the community.
According to the Ratification of Treaties Act,15 all treaties that have been ratified have to be presented before parliament (the legislature). However, the status of ratified treaties in domestic law is still unclear and any presentation before parliament may not have any bearing on its domestic applicability. This has not been helped by the fact no regulations or rules have been made to enable the application of the Ratification of Treaties Act. Thus it should be noted that ratification of treaties and their coming into domestic effect has grown out of usage rather than as a result of standardisation by law.16
In addition, no superior court in Uganda has addressed the question of whether the legislature has to incorporate international treaties before they can have domestic effect. Regardless, there are instances where courts have positively applied international treaties. One of the most recent cases is the application of the treaty in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the case of Uganda v Thomas Kwoyelo.17 Others include: Attorney General v Susan Kigula18 where the Supreme Court invoked international law to inform its decision on the death penalty and Uganda v Peter Matovu19 where the High Court relied on provisions of the CEDAW.
Yes, there are a number of treaties whose provisions have been incorporated verbatim into domestic law, these include: the Rome Statute (every significant part has been incorporated in the International Criminal Court Act); the Geneva Convention (has specified provisions incorporated in the Geneva Convention Act); and the Diplomatic Relations Convention (has specific provisions incorporated in the Diplomatic Privileges Act). Additionally, treaties have been incorporated in schedules of specific Acts. Examples include all the above treaties that have appeared in the schedule of the above respective domestic legislation.
Yes, the Constitution contains provisions that directly address disability. The following are some of the constitutional provisions which make direct reference to the protection and promotion of persons with disabilities in Uganda:
Yes, there are number of cases directly relating to disability that have been decided by courts in Uganda. However, due to poor reporting very few of these cases are readily available. Nonetheless, below are two recently decided cases relating to disability:
The applicants sued the Attorney General (the official government legal representative), Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and Makerere University Kampala (MUK) on the grounds that public buildings and facilities within Kampala city and Makerere University (an institution of higher education) were not accessible to persons with disabilities. The applicants relied on the anti-discrimination provisions in the Constitution and the Persons with Disabilities Act of 2006 mandating that all public buildings be made accessible to persons with disabilities to enable them to fully participate in society.
In its judgement, the High Court held that KCCA and MUK had taken sufficient reasonable steps within their means to make their buildings and facilities accessible. The court also held that KCCA and especially MUK had limited resources and could not fully make all buildings immediately accessible and that the current state of inaccessibility was attributable to buildings constructed prior to the period when issues of disability became a pertinent national agenda. The court also noted that to expect MUK to prioritise resources to making buildings accessible would substantially increase the cost of education hence affect other students. On the above grounds, the court dismissed the application.
The plaintiffs, both persons with disabilities and customers of Centenary Rural Development Bank (CERUDEB), sued CERUDEB on the grounds that the bank, including access to the main banking hall, was inaccessible for persons with disabilities. Prior to the suit the plaintiffs had notified CERUDEB about the lack of ramps to facilitate their access to the bank but to no fruition. The plaintiffs sued. The bank afraid of costs arising from loss of the suit, eventually constructed the ramps. Since the breach had been remedied the judge advised the plaintiffs to settle the matter out of court. A consent judgement was later entered into between the parties with costs being awarded to the plaintiffs however no damages were awarded by the court.
The Policy provides the basis for national interventions and programmes in favour of persons with disabilities in all government departments and activities. The priority areas of focus are accessibility, participation, capacity building, awareness raising, prevention and management of disabilities, care and support, socio-economic security, research, communication (sign language, tactile and Braille literacy) and budgeting. Other aspects considered in this national policy include the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities in spheres of health including HIV/Aids interventions, education, social security, employment and access to basic human rights services for example access to justice. 25
In 1991, the three government ministries of health, education and social development together with the Norwegian Association of the Disabled (NAD) developed a National Community Based Rehabilitation Programme as the main strategy for the delivery of rehabilitation services and ensuring full participation in poverty eradication programmes and inclusion for persons with disabilities.26 The programme was also designed to ensure early identification, assessment and referral. The programme focuses on awareness, capacity building, livelihood and influencing policy change for persons with disabilities. Currently it is being implemented in the districts of Mbarara, Bushenyi, Mbale, Kabale, Mukono, Iganga, Kamuli, Ntungamo, Rukungiri, Butaleja, Busia and Kayunga.27
The Landmine Victim’s Assistance programme was launched in 2008 to raise awareness of Uganda’s obligation as a state party to the Mine Ban Treaty28 and the CRPD. The plan provides for the
establishment of a framework for rapid response to support landmine survivors and other persons with disabilities and older who are in emergency and conflict situations to enable them participate and re-integrate into the development process and raise awareness on Uganda’s obligations.29
The Equal Opportunities Commission, which is established by the Equal Opportunities Commission Act of 2007,30 is a fully-fledged secretariat that has the mandate to investigate and inquire into matters on its own initiative or by a complaint made to it by persons belonging to marginalised groups including persons with disabilities where discrimination in relation to opportunities has occurred.
Yes. Uganda has a national Human Rights Commission established by the Constitution.31 The Commission has the mandate to address all human rights violations including those relating to persons with disabilities. According to the Uganda Human Right Commission Act, the Commission has adjudicatory powers to investigate on its own initiative or by complaint made to it any alleged human rights violation.32 In October 2004, the Commission established the Vulnerable Persons Unit to address issues raised by vulnerable groups including people with disabilities.33 The Unit amongst its functions, monitors government compliance with its human right obligations to vulnerable persons. It also undertakes activities aimed at ensuring national human rights protection for vulnerable persons. At the time of reporting, it was unclear whether the Commission has handled any cases relating to violations against persons with disabilities. However, the issues raised by people with disabilities for the attention of the Commission are centred on education, transport, employment and accessibility to basic services. 34
The second public protection body is the Inspectorate of Government established under chapter 13 of the Constitution. The Inspectorate does not specifically handle matters relating to persons with disabilities. Its primary functions involve the promotion of natural justice, fairness, efficiency and good governance in the administration of public offices. 35
Yes, there are a number of organisations in Uganda that represent and advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. By their names it is easy to identify the specific disability on which they focus. These are often referred to as Disabled Peoples Organisations and they include:
In practice, in Uganda, the National Union of Disabled Persons Uganda (NUDIPU) represents an umbrella organisation that brings together DPO’s. Currently it is comprised of 14 DPO’s and 112 district unions.36 Membership is voluntary and there is no particular legislation or policy obligating DPO’s to join.
Following the ratification of the CRPD, DPO’s have been actively engaged in informing and participating in the implementation of national programmes in favour of persons with disabilities. For example:
DPO’s have collectively and individually engaged in a wide range of activities and projects aimed at informing and ensuring their participation in the implementation process of pro-disability initiatives, some of these activities include:
Nationally within Uganda, efforts are still being made to come up with best practices to ensure involvement of DPOs. However partnership with other countries and jurisdictions such as Norway and Japan, amongst others, is being encouraged to discuss challenges and glean best practices for the involvement of all DPOs in Uganda.
As a result of their persistence, DPO’s are slowly gaining recognition and are consequently actively involved by the government in implementation of disability programmes. DPOs played a crucial role in the development of the Persons with Disabilities Act and in the preparation of the CRPD Uganda report. Because of their efforts the government has been moved to adopt positive steps for persons with disabilities such as: enacting laws providing for the political representation of persons with disabilities, ratifying the CRPD, developing a national disability policy and promoting legislation that encourages employment of persons with disabilities. In 2012, Martin Mwesigwa Babu a member of staff of NUDIPU was successfully nominated by the government of Uganda as a member of the Committee of Persons with Disabilities. 40
Yes. In the first place, additional research and statistics are required including statistical data on disability prevalence and trends using the WHO International Classification of Functionality (ICF) model to identify disability. More national research towards understanding the correlation between disability and the community, poverty, employment, mortality, family, education, ownership of property, access to justice and health to mention but a few should also be carried out. These findings should then be used to inform comprehensive national legislation, policies and interventions for persons with disabilities.
Secondly, while there is a huge representation of physical disability and other sensory disability like a hearing impairment, persons with mental and/or intellectual disability have not been sufficiently represented. With the introduction of the CRPD more research, representation and advocacy should be directed towards this area.
Many government disability departments and even some DPO’s still do not express a proper understanding of the social model human rights approach to disability adopted by the CRPD. This in consequence has led to continued acceptance of medical and charity based interventions for persons with disabilities with less than equal effort directed towards addressing social and physical barriers. As such strategic capacity building is required to address these gaps in ideological understanding.
Additional efforts are also needed to adopt proper advocacy strategies for persons with disabilities. Self advocacy, peer advocacy, group advocacy and family advocacy are some examples of advocacy strategies that have yielded particular success in other jurisdictions. It is crucial that more research and initiatives be directed towards advancing and developing successful advocacy techniques.
Yes. Financial empowerment, capacity empowerment and full commitment by government is still required to enable DPO’s to take a leading role in the implementation process of international, regional and national instruments. Recognition by the state of the status and role of DPO’s in the disability movement is crucial as envisaged by the slogan repeated during the CRPD drafting process ‘nothing about us without us’.41 Thus besides engaging them right from the inception of national programmes there should be a transparent and clear flow of information between government agencies dealing with disability and DPOs.
There is no specific research institute singularly dedicated to persons with disabilities. In Uganda all research is regulated by the National Council for Science.42 Organisations, institutions and individuals conduct research generally and may at times focus on disability and require involvement with DPO’s.
The challenges faced by persons with disabilities in Uganda are not widely different from those faced by other sub Saharan African countries. Because of the rate at which they occur here are some examples that stand out: poverty, marginalisation and exclusion, discrimination, low government prioritisation resulting in inadequate or no institutional interventions, negative cultural and social attitudes, existence of environmental physical/structural barriers, low levels of education and unemployment to mention but a few. 44
All newly constructed public buildings such as schools and health facilities have to cater for the needs of persons with disabilities.45 In collaboration with the Uganda National Action on Physical Disability, the Ministry of Gender and Labour and Social Development in 2010 developed accessibility standards for the removal of barriers to access buildings.46 These standards require that all are accessible and include provisions such as rumps and elevators. In reality however, most buildings are still not accessible to persons with disabilities.
Section 22 of the Persons with Disability Act provides a duty for any person involved in the business of public transport to provide facilities to enable access by DPOs. Section 44 poses penalties for any person who fails to meet these requirements.
The right to education is granted to all persons in Uganda by virtue of article 30 of the Constitution which provides that all persons have a right to education. The government is mandated to promote educational development of persons with disabilities47 and any prohibition on the basis of disability is outlawed.48 The Ministry of Education has a fully fledged Department of Special Needs Education and Career Guidance to promote the education of persons with disabilities.
To promote higher education for and the needs of persons with disabilities, all boards of public universities are mandated to have a member with a disability to represent persons with disabilities.49 In addition, during admission to public universities, 4,5 points are awarded to applicants with disabilities to promote affirmative action.
Section 11 of the Persons with Disability Act calls on the government to undertake measures to encourage vocational training for persons with disabilities and over the years, the Government of Uganda has been facilitating a vocational training programme to equip persons with disabilities with employable skills to promote their access to employment. 50
The Persons with Disabilities Act, in section 12 prohibits discrimination in employment on the grounds of disability and details the grounds that are considered to constitute discrimination. Section 13 of the Act provides that persons with disabilities have a right to practice their professions and to carry on any lawful occupation, trade or business of their choice. It also calls on the government and private sectors to promote the right to employment of persons with disabilities, including those who acquire a disability during the course of their employment, to work on an equal basis with others and to earn a living by work. This stance is reechoed in the Employment Act which discourages discrimination on the basis of disability. 51
The Persons with Disabilities Act contains an extensive enumeration of the right to sports and recreational activities. Under section 30 of the Act, government is required to promote the rights of persons with disabilities to participate in recreational, leisure and sporting activities. The section also prohibits any related discrimination. In addition, in terms of section 30(4) of the Act, the government is required to use at least ten percent of all funds it commits to sports for the development of the recreation and sports of persons with disabilities.52
The various entities of the justice system - including police and courts- are covered by the provisions of Part V of the Persons with Disabilities Act. Section 25 of the Persons with Disabilities Act prohibits such entities from excluding a person with disability from accessing services. Section 27 of the Act imposes an obligation on service providers to provide auxiliary aid or services to enable a person with a disability to use the service.
In terms of Court proceedings, the Evidence Act allows witnesses with speaking disabilities to give their testimony in writing or in signs. 53
The Persons with Disabilities Act recognises the right of persons with disabilities to enjoy the same rights with other members of the public in all health institutions including general medical care.54 It goes on to provide for the duty of the government to provide special health services required by persons with disabilities including providing access to reproductive health services which are relevant to Women with Disabilities (WWDs); enforcing user friendly hospital materials for use by persons with disabilities visiting hospitals; and encouraging population based public health programmess relevant to persons with disabilities.55
The Ministry of Health has a Disability and Rehabilitation Section responsible for developing policies and guidelines for reducing the incidence and prevalence of disability, providing rehabilitation and promoting access to health services by persons with disabilities.56
There are periodical national budgetary grant schemes targeting PWDs. For example, in to the 2010 national budget, the government introduced a Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment (SAGE) programme targeting poor households headed by amongst others persons with disabilities to be managed under the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development.57
The Constitution of Uganda recognises in article 59 the right to vote of every citizen irrespective of disability above 18 years of age. Article 38 recognises the right of every Ugandan citizen to participate in the affairs of the government, individually or through his or her representatives in accordance with law. However, persons of unsound mind cannot hold political positions.58 Although no definition exists to identify what constitutes unsound mind, the declaration of unsound mind in Uganda involves an adjudicatory process before a Magistrate and is governed by the Mental Treatment Act.
Article 78(1)(c) of the Constitution provides that parliament shall be composed of representatives of amongst others persons with disabilities as parliament may determine. The Local Governments Act, 1997 (amended in 2002 and 2005) provides for the election of two persons with disabilities to district council and the lower councils.59
Some of the particular issues affecting women with disabilities include concerns relating to availability of accessible and suitable reproductive health and birth services; sexual exploitation; extreme denial of the right to property, family, child support and education; and a lack of socio-cultural structures to address their needs. 60
A specific concern relating to children with disabilities is in regard education. According to the 2008 data used in Uganda’s first country report, there were only 183 537 children with disabilities in primary education.61 This figure when compared to the general enrollment in 2008 of 7 963 000 means that children with disabilities only represented 0,023 per cent of the general primary school population.62
At present persons with mental and/or intellectual disabilities are minimally represented, there is limited research as to their status and experience and there is limited national intervention directed to their needs. As a result, they are left to wander the streets without food or family protection since in most cases they have been abandoned or neglected by even their families. The Mental Treatment Act that follows a predominantly medical model is the only law that governs their relationship with the state and legal structures. In the light of the CRPD standards and state obligations on equal recognition before the law for all disabled persons, autonomy, liberty, protection against compulsory detention and involuntary treatment a lot still needs to be done to adopt a humane approach to issues of persons with mental disability.
4. Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) ‘Uganda National Household Survey’ (2010) 156, available at http://www.ubos.org/UNHS0910/unhs200910.pdf (accessed 24 February 2014).
7. UN Enable ‘Convention and Optional Protocol signatures and ratifications’: http://www.un.org/disabilities/countries.asp?navid=12&pid=166 (accessed 24 February 2014).
12. African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child ‘Recommendations and observations to the Government of the Republic of Uganda by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child on the initial implementation Report of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child’ (2010) 2.
14. Government of Uganda ‘Third periodic report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women’ (2000).
23. High Court of Uganda, Misc App No 146/2011, judgment delivered 20 May 2014 (unreported), case excerpt available at http://www.ulii.org/ug/judgment/high-court/2014/42 (accessed 23 June 2014).
27. Community Rehabilitation Programme for the Disabled: http://www.mglsd.go.ug/?p=485 (accessed 10 March 2014).
33. Uganda Human Rights Commission: http://www.uhrc.ug/?page_id=1675 (accessed 3 March 2014).
40. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights ‘Elected members of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/Membership.aspx (accessed 5 March 2014).
41. Disability Rights in Uganda - Research Blog: http://disability-uganda.blogspot.ie/2012/01/nothing-about-us-without-us.html (accessed 6 March 2014).
46. Uganda National Action on Physical Disability in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development ‘Accessibility standards: A practical guide to create a barrier-free physical environment for persons with disabilities in Uganda’ (2010).
56. Ministry of Health: Community health: http://health.go.ug/mohweb/?page_id=267 (accessed 6 March 2014).
63. Parliament of Uganda eNewsletter, Vol 5, issue no 23: http://www.parliament.go.ug/enewsletter/index.php/home/view/126/monday-march-5-2012-friday-march-9-2012 (accessed 30 September 2013).