Our Programs

Access to Justice for the Poor, Marginalised and Vulnerable People of Uganda

The Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) is a national member-based non governmental organisation established in 2004 to provide strategic linkages and a collaborative platform for legal aid service providers (LASPs) in Uganda. The network maintains a common front to interface with the Justice Law and Order Sector on issues of access to justice and the rule of law.

The concept of poverty can be defined as a multidimensional phenomenon that includes as one of its components chronic social, political and economic inequality or a human condition characterized by the sustained or chronic deprivation of resources, capabilities, choices and power necessary for the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living and other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.

The concept of vulnerability refers to the probability or risk today of being in poverty or to fall into deeper poverty in the future due to disasters or shocks that would worsen the status quo. Linked to the concept of vulnerability is the fact that vulnerable groups of individuals do not participate or have an ability to influence decisions that ultimately impact their lives or welfare. Vulnerable groups or people do not have access to effective justice that would enable them to obtain legal remedies to their problems.

The concept of marginalisation has been defined as processes by which some groups of people are being pushed or kept out of the system, or being maintained in a peripheral, disadvantaged position within that system. It is in effect complex process of relegating specific groups of people to the lower or outer edge of society. Marginalisation pushes these groups of people to the margin of society economically, politically, culturally and socially; in line with an unwritten, but nonetheless real, policy of exclusion.

Child Marriage

Child marriage can have devastating effects on individual girls and their (future) children: Typically, it cuts short or ends a girls education, compromises her reproductive rights, sexual health, future employment and earnings, and perpetuates personal and community poverty. While gender inequality, poverty, tradition and lack of education are acknowledged as root causes of child marriage, the mapping showed a rich diversity in how child marriage is interconnected with local traditions and rites. These include female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), notions of family honour, puberty (menarche), virginity, parental concerns surrounding premarital sex and pregnancy, dowry pressures, the perception that marriage provides protection from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and the desire to secure social, economic or political alliances.

In some contexts, particularly where women have low status, child marriage is seen as an effective way to reduce household poverty and relieve the financial burden that girls place on their families. Child marriage tends to increase in humanitarian emergencies and conflict settings. Economic shocks, such as natural disasters and protracted crises, have a direct impact on girls. The lack of a functioning civil registration system (which provides proof of age for children), weak legislative frameworks that include provisions allowing underage marriage with parental consent or court approval, customary or religious laws that condone child marriage and the lack of accompanying enforcement mechanisms hinder the prevention of child marriage and erode the effectiveness of official legislative intentions.

Put girls empowermentat the forefront of programming and seek their involvement. To challenge the assumption of girls as passive beneficiaries, programmes should put adolescent girls at the forefront of programming and ensure that they are included in the entire project cycle. Programmes that work directly with girls, such as the creation of safe spaces, should use rightsbased approaches. They should aim to build girls confidenceand enable them to stand up for their rights. The involvement of older girls and young women as mentors and role models, within a safe environment, are effective strategies for helping younger girls make positive decisions for the future.Explore the role of men and boys in preventing child marriage. Programmes should explore and extend the knowledge and evidence base of how men and boys can be engaged in the prevention and mitigation of child marriage. Informants stressed the importance of involving girls themselves in any interventions. Working on child marriage prevention and mitigation at the local level can have a liberating effect on an entire community, especially when its members, including girls themselves, are involved in identifying behaviours and practices that are perpetuating and deepening the cycle of poverty. Ground programmes in local communities and seek their partnership. Actors should ensure that child marriage prevention programmes are grounded in, and responsive to, the context of target communities. This means that programmes should be built on a sound analysis of the local child marriage narrative, and that the development and implementation of national action plans and strategies include a bottom-up approach.

Advocacy efforts have been largely successful; what is most important now is focusing on the practical needs of girls. Respondents believed that the current advocacy efforts at regional and national levels have increased awareness and strengthened commitment to accelerate action to end child marriage, especially among influential stakeholders such as parliamentarians. Avoid demonizing the practice of child marriage, which could alienate certain target groups. Advocacy messages should be scrutinized to minimize potentially negative impact. This includes criminalizing the practice, which could alienate those who, in reality, have very limited choices and believe that marriage is the best option available to them. Rather, a less judgemental approach should be taken, which lays out sound evidence for the harmful effects and proposes alternative solutions that can help address the underlying causes that leads to the practice. The use of mentors and role models for girls is often successful. The respondents reported success with using mentors and role models; in this way, younger girls can experience first-hand what they can aspire to. Supporting the development of self-respect and a sense of empowerment means that a girl can be better prepared to stand up for herself, rather than accepting that adults will make decisions for her.

Sexual and Gender Based Violence

In Uganda, Sexual Gender based violence is widely acknowledged to be of great concern, not just from a human rights perspective but also from an economic and health perspective. According to Uganda Demographic reports 2016, SGBV continue to threaten community justice for marginalized women and girls in Uganda. Sexual violence is leading cause of vulnerability, accounting for 52% among women and girls aged 15-49, other forms of violence towards women and girls, 44% of ever married women experience emotional violence by their recent [partners, 39% of women and girls have ever sustained some form of injuries. 33% of women and young girls sought for help to stop violence and 11% of women who were pregnant experienced physical violence.

Some failures of political will are in the form of obstacles, which may be easy or difficult to overcome, depending on a womans circumstances, particularly her independent access to money. Often women are financially dependent on family members, who may or may not themselves be the perpetrators of abuse. Without control over finances, these women cannot seek justice. Money may be necessary to pay for court fees, representation by lawyers, and for obtaining evidence such as medical reports or scientific testing for physical evidence of blood, or semen in cases of rape. Some needs for money manifest themselves in the form of corruption, where perpetrators may seek to pay off a victim and the victim accepts this rather than pursuing a prosecution. Under reporting of SGBV cases remains a major concern due to a variety of factors including stigma, shame, family reactions and dissolution, perception of SGBV as a private matter, or lack of confidence in reporting channels. Most survivors remain silent due to fear of reprisals and/or mistrust on getting supported if reported. Limited access to basic necessities including sufficient hygiene kits leads to negative coping strategies that increase the risk of SGBV.  Access to justice for SGBV survivors is still a gap with inadequate knowledge and support for legal processes, logistical support to police for timely case management support and rejection of medical examination (PF3 filled) by non-governmental health facilities. This is exacerbated by the lack of understanding of Host Country Laws by survivors who perceive the style of justice as non-responsive to their needs. Some Refugee Welfare Council (RWCs) have also been noted to be going beyond their jurisdiction and managing cases outside their limits which further confuses the access to justice process. There is need for capacity building training for community leaders on case management. Inadequate counselling space (outreach programme) for SGBV and other critical protection cases has been noted particularly in South West.

Using integrated programming to mainstream SGBV prevention and response into all sectors, in particular; shelter, WASH and child protection. that provide services linked to SGBV in Kampala with their own funding.   Refresher SGBV/GBV IMS training for the partner staff in the different locations are planned for enhanced SGBV data management.  Awareness raising and advocacy within communities to address under-reporting of GBV and community responsibilities towards SGBV prevention and response.  Training and capacity building of community-based committees/ groups implementing SGBV initiatives in community. Protection of refugees from sexual exploitation and abuse through intensifying community mobilization and sensitization.  Improving outreach to refugees, including through mobile activities to ensure identification and safe referral of SGBV survivors and those at risk Strengthening key partnerships with UN agencies, NGOs, Government, and local communities to reinforce SGBV prevention, response and coordination mechanism.  Promoting engagement of men and boys in SGBV prevention and response. 

Sexual violence against women is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and shall mean all acts of gender-based violence that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. Measures to address SGBV Adrivuyo Uganda is implementing, include; Adopt national policies to prohibit, prevent and address violence against children, especially girls, including sexual harassment and bullying and other forms of violence. Increase measures to protect women and girls from violence and harassment, including sexual harassment and bullying, in both public and private spaces. Adrivuyo Uganda conducts violence prevention activities in schools and communities, and establishing and enforcing penalties for violence against girls.

Womens Access to Justice for Gender-Based Violence

In a broad sense, access to justice for women for acts of gender-based violence means that States must implement a range of measures including, where necessary, amending domestic law to ensure that acts of violence against women are properly defined as crimes and ensuring appropriate procedures for investigations, prosecutions and access to effective remedies and reparation. Access to justice for individual women is often assumed to reside in a criminal justice response to the perpetrator. However, women may identify other aspirations as their idea of justice for the harm they have experienced: the ability to seek safety through effective protection orders; physical and mental recovery through good quality and accessible health services; and/or the opportunity to seek a divorce and a new life free from the violence of a spouse. Often these forms of justice must be in place before a woman subjected to violence feels able to embark on the process of seeking justice through the criminal law.

Access to justice for individual women is often assumed to reside in a criminal justice response to the perpetrator. However, women may identify other aspirations as their idea of justice for the harm they have experienced: the ability to seek safety through effective protection orders; physical and mental recovery through good quality and accessible health services; and/or the opportunity to seek a divorce and a new life free from the violence of a spouse. Often these forms of justice must be in place before a woman subjected to violence feels able to embark on the process of seeking justice through the criminal law

This Practitioners Guide can be used to support a number of initiatives to promote the rule of law: Adrivuyo Ugandas and other human rights defenders (referred to in this Guide as advocates) about relevant international human rights law and standards that address the measures that States and State officials are required to take in order to prevent, provide remedies and reparation to victims of, and hold accountable those responsible for acts of gender-based violence. This will facilitate an assessment as to the effectiveness of domestic law and practice through enabling a comparison with international human rights laws and standards. Adrivuyo Uganda about existing good practice in seeking protection for women who have been subjected to gender-based violence, including through litigation against impunity of perpetrators and to secure effective remedies and reparation for victims. The advice draws on the experience of expert lawyers who have sought justice for women within their own countries and through taking cases to international authorities. Adrivuyo Uganda and other human rights defenders, as well as legislators and policy makers, about implementing international human rights law in domestic law reform, using the transformative promise of international human rights law as a complement to individual casework. More systemic change can then be sought through changes in law and practice.

The majority of women who are subjected to gender-based violence do not seek justice, frequently because they fear further violence and/or have no confidence in the justice system. Where women do seek justice, the use of international law, standards and jurisprudence can be an important tool in enhancing the responsiveness of domestic justice systems to the human rights infringements that women experience. The work of legal practitioners and advocates can help to ensure the progressive development of national laws and jurisprudence. As legislatures formulate and adopt new laws relating to womens human rights, legal advocates can bring international law and standards to domestic legal processes. As well as developing domestic law based on international human rights law, legal advocacy can build accountability mechanisms to ensure that equality for women is implemented. This includes ensuring the equal participation of women with men as professionals in justice systems. It could also extend to the establishment of gender as a standard against which States are held to account. According to a UNIFEM report: Gender sensitive accountability requires not just womens participation but institutional reform to make gender one of the standards against which performance of decision makers is assessed.19 Legal advocacy can also address State accountability, including at the highest levels of constitutional authority, through police and prosecutors, other courts and legal systems, such as family courts, for the implementation of policies and procedures and access to services that women who have been subjected to violence often need, including housing, medical care and social services. Human rights law and standards are also important in advocacy for the fine details of implementation of human rights in practice, such as allocation of tasks and responsibility to various State agencies, ensuring sufficient financial and human resourcing and including effective training. This is most effective when there are specific oversight mechanisms assessing the effectiveness of State action to implement the principles of equality and non-discrimination. Where specific oversight mechanisms are lacking, as indicated the CEDAW Committee.