Birth Registration: Citizenship is afforded to children born in or outside the country if at least one parent or one grandparent held Ugandan citizenship at the time of the child’s birth. Children under the age of 18 who are abandoned in the country with no known parents are considered Ugandan citizens, as are children under the age of 18 adopted by Ugandan parents.
According to the most recent information provided by the 2006 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey, only 21 percent of rural and 24 percent of urban births were registered. However, lack of registration generally did not result in denial of public services. On September 13, the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), the government agency responsible for recording births and deaths, launched a computerized system that uses mobile telephones to deliver timely and accurate records. The system enables officials to send details of births and deaths as a text message to the central server at URSB headquarters in Kampala.
Education: The law provides for tuition-free and compulsory education for the first seven years of primary school or through high school for especially underprivileged students. Students, except for the most underprivileged, had to pay for school supplies and some school operating costs, and many parents could not afford these fees. According to the Ministry of Education’s statistics for 2009-10, 96 percent of primary school aged children were enrolled in school, with 62 percent of children reaching grade five and 32 percent reaching grade seven. Fewer girls complete primary school than boys by a difference of four percent.
Medical Care: Health experts reported that 51 per cent of the population did not have access to state-provided health-care facilities. Where it is available, both girls and boys have equal access.
Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a serious problem, particularly rape and sexual abuse of girls, and recorded cases greatly underestimated the true pervasiveness of abuse.
According to the 2010 annual police crime report, defilement (akin to statutory rape) remained the most common crime committed against children, with 7,564 cases recorded. The report also registered 709 cases of rape, 14 of child trafficking, 14 of child sacrifice, 9,293 of child neglect, 1,732 of child desertion, 1,315 of child abuse and torture, 301of kidnapping, 46 of infanticide, and 274 of other sexual-related offences, including assault and incest. The government worked with UNICEF and NGOs, including Save the Children and African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (APCAN), to combat child abuse in the country.
In March APCAN reported that corporal punishment remained a problem, with 81 per cent of students beaten at school despite a directive from the government.
There were numerous reports of ritual sacrifice of children during the year. The government took some steps to address this problem. For example, in April police in Namayingo District arrested three traditional leaders for the ritual murder of 10-year-old Rachael Nafula. Hearing of the case was pending.
Perpetrators of sexual abuse often were family members, neighbors, or teachers. In February 2009 the UPF began providing free rape and defilement medical examinations throughout the country to assist investigations. An estimated 10,000 victims of rape and defilement have since received free medical examinations at Mulago Hospital in Kampala.
Child Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18. Marriage of underage girls by parental arrangement was common, particularly in rural areas. Local NGOs and the Police Family and Children Unit reported that acute poverty forced some parents to give away their children, including girls as young as 14, for early marriage and sexual arrangements. A March 2009 UN report stated that 32 percent of marriages involved underage girls.
Sexual contact outside marriage with girls less than 18 years of age, regardless of consent or age of the perpetrator is considered “defilement” under the law and carries a maximum sentence of death. Nevertheless, such cases often were settled by a payment to the girl’s parents.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Commercial sexual exploitation of children was a problem. According to a study conducted by the local NGO Uganda Youth Development Link during the year, the number of children affected by commercial sexual exploitation (most 14-17 years old) between 2004 and 2011 increased from 12,000 to an estimated 18,000, the majority of whom were Ugandan girls but also included children from the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, and Tanzania. The NGO identified parental neglect and abandonment as a major factor resulting in exploitation of children. While the law prohibits sexual exploitation of children, the government did not enforce the law effectively. The law does not prohibit child pornography. The minimum age of consensual sex is 18 years.
Child Soldiers: As in the past six years, there were no reports that the LRA abducted or conscripted children within the country. According to UNICEF, an estimated 5,000 of the 40,000 Ugandan children abducted by the LRA in previous years for use as laborers, soldiers, guards, and sex slaves were still missing. There were numerous reports of LRA abductions of children in the DRC, CAR, and South Sudan.
Displaced Children: Many children from the farming regions of Karamoja came to Kampala during the dry season to find food and work, and most of them ended up on the streets begging. Police routinely rounded up street children and relocated them to a remand home for juvenile delinquents where staff attempted to locate the children’s families and return them to their homes. For example, on June 28, authorities rounded up 292 street children and took them to Kampiringisa National Rehabilitation Centre in Mpigi. The remand center, understaffed and underfunded, was often unable to accommodate the influx of children from these roundups, and many children eventually returned to the streets of Kampala.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For information see the Department of State’s Report on Compliance on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abductions at http://travel.state.gov/abduction/resources/congressreport_4308.html.