Uganda is ranked 73 out of 86 in the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

The country was ranked 73 out of 102 in the 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

In the 2011 Human Development Index, Uganda is ranked in 161st place (out of 187 countries with data), with a score of 0.446. The country’s score under the Gender Inequality Index is 0.577 (116th place out of 146 countries). Uganda is ranked in 29th place in the 2011 Global Gender Gap Index (out of a total of 135 countries), with a score of 0.7220, where 0 denotes inequality, and 1 denotes equality.

Discriminatory Family Code: 

Note that at the time of review (March 2012) the Ugandan parliament was considering the Marriage and Divorce Bill which aims to reform and consolidate the law relating to marriage, separation and divorce; to provide for the types of recognized marriages in Uganda, marital rights and duties, recognition of cohabitation in relation to property rights, grounds for breakdown of marriage, rights of parties on dissolution of marriage; and related matters.

The country’s many different religious communities are governed by different customary legal systems, which determine family law. Many of these discriminate against women, although civil law prevails where customary law violates Constitutional protections.[10] The government of Uganda has been debating a Domestic Relations Bill since 2003 that would reform and consolidate laws relating to marriage, separation, and divorce amongst its diverse religious and ethnic communities. In addition, the bill would criminalize customs of widow inheritance, marital rape, and the payment of bride price.[11]

The minimum legal age of marriage is 18 years for both men and women.[12] A 2004 United Nations report estimated that 32 percent of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced, separated or widowed.[13] By contrast, a 2006 Demographic and Health Survey reported the figure to be 22.5 percent (including unregistered unions);[14] 15.9 percent of married women aged 15-49 were married by their 15th birthday.[15]

Polygamy is legal in Uganda, according to customary and Islamic law, and will remain so should the Domestic Relations Bill pass.[16] Women currently have no legal course of action to prevent their husbands from taking another wife, although under the Domestic Relations Bill, a wife would be allowed to divorce her husband if he attempted to marry a new wife without her consent.[17] The 2006 DHS reported that 28 percent of married women were in polygamous relationships,[18] a number only slightly lower than that reported in the 1990s.[19]

Although the 1996 law on the status of children stipulates that both parents are responsible for supporting their offspring, customary law holds that men retain sole parental authority in Uganda in the event of divorce.[20]  The Constitution guarantees a woman’s equal rights within marriage, even in the event of a divorce, but the law currently does not enforce this right.[21]  In addition, under customary law in some areas, women wishing to divorce on the grounds of their husband’s adultery are required to meet stricter evidentiary standards than men in the same position.[22]

Customary law dictates that women do not have the right to inherit but the Marriage Code grants widows the right to inherit 15 per cent of a deceased husband’s property.[23]  According to data included in the 2006 DHS, and a recent World Bank report, nearly half of widows find themselves dispossessed of at least some property.[24] The Chronic Poverty Research Centre reports that 36.41 percent of widows inherited majority of assets after their spouses in 2006.[25] In addition, in some areas, widow inheritance is practised, whereby if a man dies, his brother can ‘inherit’ the man’s widow.[26] Under the pending Domestic Relations Bill, women’s rights to land and other types of property prior to, during, and following marriage would be protected. In addition, the Constitutional Court has declared provisions of the Succession Act (which governs inheritance in the event of a person dying intestate) as unconstitutional, and the government is currently considering amendments to the act to bring it into accordance with the law.[27]

[9] African Union (2010) [10] Knox et al. 2007, pp. 2, 10 [11] Draft of the Domestic Relations Bill, accessed 26 March 2010, available at;CEDAW (2009) p. 15; von Struensee, V., (2008) p. 1-10 [12] CEDAW (2000) p. 66 [13] United Nations (2004) p. 354 [14] Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) and Macro International (2006), Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2006, Table 7.1 [15] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Table 7.3 [16] Part II, Article 10(b) of the Draft Domestic Relations Bill. [17] Part X, Article 79(3) of the Draft Domestic Relations Bill. [18] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Table 7.2 [19] Von Struensee, V. (2005), Appendix I [20] Part II, Article 6 of the Children’s Act, adopted 1 August 1997 in CEDAW (2000) pp.52, 68 [21] Knox et al. (2007) p.5 [22] US Department of State (2011) [23] CEDAW (2000) pp. 69-70 [24] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Table 16.8; World Bank et al. (2009) p.143 [25] Chronic Poverty Research Centre (2011) p.20 [26] US Department of State (2011) [27] Part IX, Articles 64-72 of the Draft Domestic Relations Bill; CEDAW (2009) pp. 13, 16-17, 66

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

In November 2009 Parliament passed the country’s first bill criminalizing domestic violence, but as of March 2010 the President had yet to give assent to the bill.[28] The bill provides a thorough definition of domestic violence that includes physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, psychological, and economic violence as well as harassment. In addition, the bill provides protection orders for abused women, which had not previously existed in Ugandan law.[29]

Rape is a criminal offence in Uganda.[30] According to the US Department of State’s human rights report for 2010, the law is not effectively enforced; most rapes go unreported, and police lack the resources and capacity to investigate cases of rape.[31] Spousal rape is not currently recognised as a criminal offence, but the Domestic Violence Act and the draft Sexual Offences (Miscellaneous Amendments) bill of 2004 (both pending) recognize spousal rape as a crime and mandate imprisonment, fines, and compensation to the victim as punishment.[32] As of 2009, neither bill had been passed.[33]

Sexual harassment is a criminal offence, with penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment, but the law is not effectively enforced.[34]

Domestic violence: nearly 60 percent of women have experienced some form of physical violence, and in more than 87 percent of cases, the perpetrator was a current or former husband or partner.[35] Domestic violence has wide social acceptance, even by women. The 2006 DHS gave men and women a list of five reasons why a man might be justified in beating his wife: 59.3 percent of the men and a full 70.2 percent of the women agreed with at least on reason.[36]

Rape is very common in Uganda, and enforcement of existing laws is sporadic. In 2008 there were 1,536 cases reported to the police, which resulted in 241 court cases and only 52 convictions.[37] According to the 2006 DHS, 39 percent of women aged 15-49 reported having experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.[38] The victim’s husband or partner was the perpetrator in more than 81 percent of these cases, reflecting a widely held belief that spousal rape is a husband’s prerogative.[39] That said, the 2006 DHS asked men and women when the wife would be justified in refusing sex to their husband; 60.3 percent of women and 63.3 percent of men agreed with all three reasons given. Surprisingly, 8.3 of women, but only 3.3 percent of men disagreed with all three reasons.[40]

According to the US Department of State, sexual harassment is considered to be a serious and widespread problem in Uganda in schools, universities, and workplaces. Investigations are ongoing into reports of sexual harassment by senior male police officers against female officers, by a senior male member of staff against female nurses at Nakaseke Hospital, and into allegations that female students are Makerere University were expected to provide sexual favours in return for good grades.[41]

Rape and other forms of sexual violence has been an ongoing feature of the conflict in northern Uganda over the past two decades.[42] The Lord’s Resistance Army – also active in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and Sudan – has made consistent use of rape, sexual mutilation, and the abduction of male and female children for sexual slavery.[43] In addition, according to the Uganda Human Rights Commission, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, and the African Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, there are cases of rape being used by security forces as a means of torture and intimidation.[44]

Women of the Sabiny tribe (concentrated in the Kapchorwa district) are subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM), and the practice was outlawed there in 2006.[45] According to data from the 2006 DHS, 0.6% of women in Uganda have undergone FGM.[46] In 2009 the national Parliament passed a bill that prohibits and criminalizes the practice, with punishments of up to 10 years for persons who carry out FGM. The bill is awaiting the President’s assent.[47]

Abortion is legal in cases where the woman’s mental or physical health is in danger.[48] There are no legal restrictions on women’s access to contraception, although provision of reproductive health services is inadequate, particularly in rural areas where there are few health clinics.[49] Contraceptive knowledge is nearly universal, and has steadily increased in recent years, likely as a result of the government’s campaign to limit the spread of HIV.[50] Usage rates for married women fall well behind sexually active unmarried women, however, which places them, and in particular women in polygamous or concurrent sexual relationships, at greater risk of contracting HIV.[51] Just under 18 percent of married women were using contraception at the time of the 2006 DHS, compared to almost 47 percent of sexually active unmarried women.[52] Moreover, of those 18 percent, nearly 58 percent end up discontinuing use in the first year.[53] The level of communication about contraception between couples is low: less than 45 percent of women reported speaking to their husbands about contraception, and 17 percent said that their husbands were not aware of the contraceptive use.[54] Overall, these low levels of contraceptive use translated into a high rate of unmet family planning needs. More than 40 percent of married women reported that they either wanted to limit the size of their family or increase the space of time between the births of their children, but were unable to do so.[55]

[28] Malinga J. and L. Ford (18 March 2010) [29] Report of the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the Domestic Violence Bill, 2009. [30] US Department of State (2011) [31] US Department of State (2011) [32] CEDAW (2009) p. 16 [33] CEDAW (2009) p. 16 [34] US Department of State (2011) [35] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Tables 18.1 and 18.2 [36] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Table 15.6.1 and 15.6.2 [37] US Department of State (2010) [38] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Table 18.4[39] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Table 18.5 [40] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Tables 15.7.1 and 15.7.2 [41] US Department of State (2011) [42] CEDAW (2000) p. 28; Arieff (2009) p.1 [43] Arieff (2009) p.3 [44] US Department of State (2011) [45] US Department of State (2010) [46] UBOS and Macro International (2006), table 10.3 [47] The Parliament of the Republic of Uganda (2009), Parliament Outlaws Female Genital Mutilation, accessed 26 March 2010. [48] UN (2011) [49] US Department of State (2011) [50] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Table 6.1 [51] Struensee (2005) [52] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Table 6.3 [53] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Table 6.12 [54] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Table 6.19 and 6.18 [55] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Table 8.3

Son Bias: 

Of those children included in the 2006 DHS, 47% of girls under two had received all their vaccinations, as had 45.5% of boys.[56] Under-five mortality rates were higher for girls than for boys, as were rates of malnutrition.[57] This would not indicated any pronounced son bias in regard to early childhood care.

According to the International Labour Organization, 2.7 million children are considered to be in employment in Uganda.[58] Gender-disaggregated data was unavailable regarding child labour.

According to data from the 2006 DHS, 11.4% of women aged 20-24 questions for the survey had received no education at all, compared to 4.7% of men.[59] For the same age bracket, 7.9% of women had completed secondary school and / or continued onto tertiary-level education, compared to 9.8% of men.[60] This would indicate some preference towards sons in regard to access to education.

The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 1.01.[61] 

There is no evidence to suggest that Uganda is a country of concern in relation to missing women.

[56] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Tables 13.11 [57] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Tables 9.3 and 12.1 [58] Reported in Freedom House (2010) [59] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Table 3.1 [60] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Table 3.1 [61] Central Intelligence Agency (2012)

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

Discriminatory customary practices persist in regard to women’s land rights, despite the government’s recent adoption of a new land law designed to improve women’s access to land and grant them the right to manage their property.[62] As of 2000, only 7 percent of women owned land.[63] Decision-making powers, however, are typically granted to men and most female landowners have no power to administer their land holdings as the law did not include a co-ownership clause. Instead, it specifies  a “caveat” indicating that a property is subject to consent before it can be sold or transferred.[64] Passage of the Domestic Relations Bill will change existing land laws significantly.

The Constitution upholds women’s rights to have access to property other than land. Theoretically, women are free to administer their property without their husbands’ consent, but here too customary laws prevent women from exercising their rights.[65]

Access to bank loans is difficult for women in Uganda. Discriminatory practices that prevent women from accessing land are a major obstacle as most commercial banks will not approve loans unless women hold title deeds as a guarantee.[66] The majority of employed women in Uganda, between 75 and 80 percent, work in the agricultural sector as unpaid subsistence laborers, and therefore cannot acquire the documentation or collateral necessary to obtain a bank loan. Even within this sector, women are relegated to growing food crops while men tend to cash-based crops.[67] Several NGOs operate micro-credit programmes that specifically target women.[68]

[62] The Land (Amendment) Act of 2004 [63] CEDAW (2000) p. 52, 57 [64] Land (Amendment) Act of 2004; CEDAW (2000) p. 56; CEDAW (2009) pp. 14-15 [65] Article 246 (4) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 in CEDAW (2009) p. 14 [66] CEDAW (2000) p. 52 [67] UBOS and Macro International (2006), Table 4.7.1; CEDAW (2009) p. 40; CEDAW (2000) p. 42, 57 [68] CEDAW (2000) p. 52, 58

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

Uganda has rescinded the requirement that a woman receive written consent from her spouse prior to obtaining a passport.[69] There are no reported legal limitations on women’s freedom of movement, although on a day-to-day basis, women may have to seek permission from their husbands in order to travel: according to data from the 2006 DHS, 35.8% of married women who were interviewed reported that their husbands had the final say as to whether or not the wife could leave to visit family or relatives.[70]

Freedom of speech, association and assembly are protected by law, but in practice, the government is increasingly intolerant of criticism, and NGOs and other groups face restrictions on their activities in the form of onerous registration requirements (although remain outspoken and critical of government policy).[71] There appears to be an active and engaged women’s rights movement in Uganda, working particularly on issues relating to violence against women, as well as pushing for legislative changes to protect women’s rights.[72] 

Women appear to have the same rights to vote and stand for election as men in Uganda.[73] In Uganda, 80 of the 333 seats in the national parliament are reserved for women, but in the February 2006 elections, an additional 22 women were elected to a total of 102 seats, or nearly 30 percent.[74] In addition, the government has mandated that women must serve on local councils, which share jurisdiction with magistrate courts on decisions pertaining to local customs. As a result, women now have a less costly alternative to the formal legal system to resolve disputes, and one where they believe that they can get a fairer hearing.[75] According to a 2007 Pew survey, 65 percent of respondents believed that men and women were equally capable as political leaders, while 27 percent thought that men were better than women.[76]. Women are entitled to sixty work days of paid maternity leave at 100 percent of wages paid for by their employer, although leave can be extended in the event of illness of the mother or child. In addition, they are protected from unjust dismissal and guaranteed the right to return to their old jobs.[77] However, because the vast majority of employed women work in the informal sector, social security benefits do not apply to them.[78]

[69] CEDAW (2009) p. 36 [70] UBOS and Macro International (2006), table 15.4.1 [71] Freedom House (2010) [72] See US Department of State (2011) [73] See CEDAW (2000) p.31 [74] Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) (2010) [75] World Bank et al. (2009) pp. 145-146, 151 [76] Pew Research Center (2007), Question Q.43[77] International Labour Organization (ILO) (2009) [78] CEDAW (2009) p. 40


Uganda gained independence from British colonial rule in 1962.[1] The country suffered considerably under the dictatorships of Idi Amin and then Milton Obote, partly as a result of conflict between government forces and rebel groups.[2] This conflict is ongoing in the northern part of the country, where the guerrilla Lord’s Resistance Army continues to terrorise the population.[3] Rates of HIV infection reached 30% in the 1990s, but have since been reduced to single figures thanks to a rigorous and effective prevention campaign.[4] Coffee is the country’s main export, although the discovery of oil and gas has raised hopes of future economic growth.[5] Uganda is classed as a low-income country by the World Bank.[6]

The Constitution of Uganda includes anti-discriminatory provisions and condemns any custom that contradicts human rights.[7] But discrimination against women is rife and the situation of Ugandan women is further aggravated by deeply rooted patriarchal tradition and years of localized armed conflict. The government has enacted or is in the process of enacting several new laws to improve the situation of women, but their implementation has been obstructed.

Uganda ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1985, but has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol.[8] Uganda ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa in 2010.[9]

[1] CIA (2010) [2] BBC (n.d.) [3] BBC (n.d.) [4] BBC (n.d.) [5] BBC (n.d.); CIA (2011) [6] World Bank (n.d.) [7] Articles 21(1) and 33(6), Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 in Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2009) p. 13; Knox, A. et al. (2007) p.2 [8] United Nations Treaty Collection (UNTC) (2011)


African Union (2010) ‘List of countries which have signed, ratified/acceded to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa’ (as of 27 August 2010).

Arrieff, Alexis (2009) ‘Sexual Violence in African Conflicts’, Washington, D.C., Congressional Research Service.

BBC (n.d.) ‘Uganda profile’, BBC news, (accessed 13 November 2011)

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2011) World Factbook: Uganda, (accessed 13 November 2011)

Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Factbook: Sex Ratio, available at (accessed 9 March 2012)

Chronic Poverty Research Centre (2011) Widowhood and asset inheritance in sub-Saharan Africa: empirical evidence from 15 countries, available at (accessed 7 March 2012)

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2000), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Uganda, Third Periodic Report of States Parties, CEDAW/C/UGA/3, CEDAW, New York, NY.

CEDAW (2002), Summary Record of the 575th Meeting, CEDAW/C/SR.575, CEDAW, New York, NY.

CEDAW (2004), Summary Record of the 576th Meeting, CEDAW/C/SR.576, CEDAW, New York, NY.

CEDAW (2009), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women: Uganda, Combined Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Periodic Report of States Parties, CEDAW/C/UGA/7, CEDAW, New York, NY.

Freedom House (2010) ‘Freedom in the World Country Reports: Uganda’, (accessed 12 November 2011)

International Labour Organization (ILO) (2009), Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws, ILO, Geneva, Switzerland (accessed 26 March 2010)

Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) (2010), Women in Parliament: All Countries on National Parliaments, IPU: Geneva,

 Knox, A., N. Duvvury, and N. Milici (2007), Connecting Rights to Reality: A Progressive Framework of Core Legal Protections for Women’s Property Rights, International Center for Research on Women: Washington, DC.

Malinga, J. and L. Ford (18 March 2010), “Ugandan domestic violence bill stalls,” The Guardian, (accessed 26 March 2010)

Parliament of the Republic of Uganda (2009), “Parliament outlaws Female Genital Mutilation,” (accessed 26 March 2010)

Parliament of the Republic of Uganda (2009), Report on the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the Domestic Violence Bill, 2009 (accessed 26 March 2010)

Pew Research Center (2007), Global Attitudes Project: Spring 2007 Survey, Pew Research Center: Washington, DC.

Struensee, V. von (2008), The Domestic Relations Bill in Uganda: Potential for Addressing Polygamy, Bride Price, Cohabitation, Martial Rape, Widow Inheritance, and Female Genital Mutilation, GBW Prevention Network

Struensee, V. von (2005), “The Contribution of Polygamy to Women’s Oppression and Impoverishment: An Argument for its Prohibition”, Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, Murdoch,

Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) and Macro International (2006), Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2006, UBOS and Macro International Inc., Calverton, Maryland, USA.

United Nations (UN) (2004), World Fertility Report 2003, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York, NY

UN (2011) ‘World Abortion Policies 2011’, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2011) Human Development Report 2011, (accessed 10 November 2011)

United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at (accessed 29 February 2012)

United Nations Treaty Collection (UNTC) (2011): Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, countries ratified. 

-              CEDAW: (accessed 12 November 2011)

-              Optional Protocol: (accessed 12 November 2011)

US Department of State (2010), 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Uganda, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC. (accessed 12 November 2011)

World Bank (n.d.) ‘Data: Uganda’, Washington, D.C., World Bank, (accessed 11 November 2011)

World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization, and International Fund for Agricultural Development (2009), Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook, The World bank, Washington, DC.

World Economic Forum (2010) ‘The Global Gender Gap Index 2010 rankings’,

World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at (accessed 2 March 2012)


Discrim. Fam. Code Rank 2012: 
Discrim. Fam. Code Value 2012: 
Legal Age of Marriage: 
Early Marriage: 
Parental Authority: 
Rest. Phys. Integrity Rank 2012: 
Rest. Phys. Integrity Value 2012: 
Violence Against Women (laws): 
Female Genital Mutilation: 
Reproductive Integrity: 
Attitudes Towards Domestic Violence: 
Prevalance Of Domestic Violence: 
Son Bias Rank 2012: 
Son Bias Value 2012: 
Missing Women: 
Fertility Preferences: 
Rest. Resources & Ent. Rank 2012: 
Rest. Resources & Ent. Value 2012: 
Access To Land: 
Access To Property Other Than Land: 
Access To Bank Loans And Credit: 
Rest. Civil Liberties Rank 2012: 
Rest. Civil Liberties Value 2012: 
Access To Public Space: 
Political Participation: 
Political Quotas: