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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:How Old is Old Enough? Defilement Law and the Age of Consent in Uganda
Author:Tamale, Sylvia R.
Periodical:East African Journal of Peace and Human Rights (ISSN 1021-8858)
Notes:biblio. refs.
Geographic terms:Uganda
East Africa
Subjects:legal reform
sexual offences
Law, Human Rights and Violence
Women's Issues
Law, Legal Issues, and Human Rights
Age of consent
child abuse
Sexual abuse
children's rights
Law reform
Legal research
Abstract:Under Ugandan law, any person who has sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of eighteen is guilty of defilement (also referred to as statutory rape in other jurisdictions), a capital offence for which death is the maximum sentence. The law stipulates that only males can commit the crime of defilement and the victims are always female. It is irrelevant whether or not the girl consented to the sexual act. This strict liability is based on the legal presumption that females under the age of eighteen are not mature enough to make decisions about their sexuality and therefore need to be protected. Recently, the Uganda Law Reform Commission (LRC) put forward some proposals for Cabinet and Parliament to consider which amend the penal offence of defilement. Contained in the Sexual Offences (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 1999, a key proposal was to reduce the age limit for defilement cases from eighteen to sixteen years. The recommendation for age reduction spurred a considerable degree of controversy in the public arena. This paper is a product of a two month-research undertaken in April and May 1999 on the debate surrounding the issue of age and sexual consent in Uganda. The research reveals a clear general division within the population. Standing on one side of the divide are religious leaders, women's rights activists, children's advocacy groups, health workers and the urban elite. This group expresses outrage at the suggestion of lowering the age of consent and perceives it as a regression to moral degeneration and a victory for rapists and child abusers. On the other side are judges and magistrates, the police, prosecutors and the rural masses. This group argues for a reduction in the age of consent on the ground that it is more reflective of existing social-cultural realities on the ground. Notes, ref.