Background to the Thematic Pillar: Women with Special Needs
Whereas the Constitution of Uganda (Chapter 4 Article 21 and 25) provides that all persons are equal before and under the law a gap exists between theory and practice the rights of women with special needs are abused either by omission or commission. Women with special needs often have limited access to functional literacy facilities, especially persons with special learning needs due to lack of trained literacy instructors in braille, sign language and tactile and curriculums that are based towards the majority of women. Women with special needs are prone to: sexual abuse; being unheard or unseen and abused by state and non-state actors. Often they are targets of all kinds of experiments and researches that impact on their wellbeing and social exclusion and justified normalised discrimination. They hence become more vulnerable even within the same social group as women.
Social security systems do not address the needs of women with special needs adequately and tend to focus on the women in the formal sector or within the majority of women.
8.2 Key Issues Within the Thematic Pillar: Women With Special Needs
Special Protection for Elderly Women
Social security for elderly men and women has become an issue of national and community concern, especially with the high HIV mortality rates, that lead to a high dependency ration of orphans on, older women. Elderly women have no social protection and yet Article 22 of the Maputo Protocol requires State Parties to provide protection to elderly women and to take specific measures commensurate with their physical, economic and social needs, as well as their access to employment and professional training. The Protocol ensures the right of elderly women to freedom from violence, including sexual abuse, discrimination based on age and the right to be treated with dignity.
Special Protection of Women with Disabilities
While Uganda has enacted a Disability Act, no regulations have been put in place to operationalise it, so as to ensure its effective implementation. The right of women with disabilities to employment, access, learning materials and sexual rights are not respected. They face stigma and often are denied the professions of their choice and yet the Maputo Protocol (Art 23 a and b), requires State Parties to ensure the protection of women with disabilities taking specific measures commensurate with their physical, economic and social needs. Women with disabilities should be supported to access employment, professional and vocational training, as well as to participate in decision-making. In addition the Protocol ensures their right to freedom from violence, including sexual abuse, discrimination based on disability and the right to be treated with dignity.
Girls and Women in Detention
The tough and appalling conditions in some of the prisons around the country are evidence that the rights of women in detention are not being adhered to. Many women serve their sentences with their children with little or no special provisions for their care and wellbeing.
Uganda committed to ensuring the rights of pregnant or nursing women in detention, by providing them with an environment which is suitable to their condition and their right to be treated with dignity (Maputo Protocol Art 24(b).
With the rising levels of HIV/AIDS, the burden of orphans, land grabbing, the lacuna in the law regarding women’s land rights and the inexistent social security systems, widow’s burdens are increasing, rendering them very vulnerable. This is contrary to the obligations that the Government of Uganda committed itself to under Art. 20 and 21 of the Maputo Protocol. This article provides that a widow shall have the right to an equitable share in the inheritance of the property of her husband and to continue to live in the matrimonial house. In case of remarriage, she shall retain this right if the house belongs to her or she has inherited it. Women and men shall have the right to inherit, in equitable shares, their parents' properties.
The Change We Want to See
1. Investment in research to inform policy and legislation for the provision of functional Social Security for elderly women especially those outside the formal sector
2. Sign language interpreters mainstreamed in all forms of official communication
3. Expeditious development of the Disability Policy and Operational Guidelines /Regulations for the implementation of the Disability Act
4. Women in detention at all levels supported to fulfill their reproductive roles and the protection of children born in detention
5. Protection of girls in juvenile centers from sexual harassment
6. Retention and completion of school, by the girl child with special needs
7. Enactment of enabling laws to operationalise article 33 of the Constitution of Uganda, so as to protect widows from cultures and traditions that are degrading and harmful
8. Concerns of women with special needs mainstreamed in all laws, policies and programmes, as well as provision of adequate funding to address these needs.