Brenda speaks at the 3rd Universal Periodic Review

WHRDNU presents at the 50th session of the Human Rights Council at the 3rd Universal Periodic Review

During the 50th session of the Human Rights Council held on July 1st 2022, Uganda presented the outcome of its 3rd Universal Periodic Review where only 54% of the recommendations given for review were accepted by Uganda and none of them were related to the protection of human rights defenders.

In a joint statement delivered by International Service For Human Rights and Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U), highlighted that the government has shown very little will to change the situation of human rights defenders by noting recommendations on:

  • The excessive use of force
  • The need to combat impunity
  • Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly
  • 16 recommendations concerning civic space and human rights defenders that were offered by all regional groups

WHRDNU Executive Director Brenda Kugonza speaks during the 50th Human Rights Council advocating for laws to protect women human rights defenders in Uganda.

International Service for Human Rights recommends Uganda to

  • Adopt the Human Rights Defenders Bill and ensure it is gender-sensitive to give full force and effect to the UN resolution on the Protection of women defenders and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
  • Publicly affirm the legitimate role of women defenders and protect them from violations by State and non-State actors by acknowledging such violations and implementing security measures for them
  • Finally, refrain from criminalising the legitimate activities of defenders including women defenders, and repeal all laws and policies that restrict their activities and rights, including the Public Order Management Act, the Anti-Pornography Act, Anti-Money Laundering Act, Anti-Terrorism Act ( as amended), and the Computer Misuse Act.




ISHR and WHRDN-U Oral statement at CEDAW NGO meeting for Uganda Review


In its list of issues, the Committee asked the State Party to “advise on specific legislative measures in place to protect the rights of women human rights defenders… (para 7)”.

Women human rights defenders in Uganda are facing particular challenges on account not only of transgressing gender norms in taking up the work of promoting and protecting human rights, but also often because of the nature of their work. HRDs identifying as or working with the LGBTI community are at particular risk, as are those working to promote and protect the rights of sex workers. Furthermore, land and environment WHRDs working as parts of communities to oppose resource extraction and mining operations have been threatened and intimidated by non-State actors and a number have faced arrests.

The draft bill on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders was tabled in 2020 and sits before the parliament. The adoption of this bill is important for the recognition of the work of all HRDs and would legitimise their rights to defend rights within the national legal frameworks. We call on CEDAW to recommend that the State genuinely engages with WHRDs to ensure that the bill and its implementation plans are fully gender responsive.

Brenda Kugonza presents statement during Zoom meeting on February 7th 2022
                           Brenda Kugonza presents statement during Zoom meeting on February 7th 2022

Meanwhile, the government of Uganda must review and reform other areas of its legislative framework in order to bring them in line with international standards. In particular, we urge the CEDAW Committee to call on the State to engage with civil society for the review and reform of the following:

  1. The Anti-Terrorism Act (Amendment) of 2015, which contains provisions that may restrict the funding of HRD organisations.
  2. The Computer Misuse Act, 2011 (section 24 and 25 in particular), under which charges of cyber harassment and offensive communication can be
  3. The NGO Act, 2016 restricts the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful Application of section 44 can result in restrictions for WHRDs working for groups regarded as illegal, such as sex workers and LGBTI persons.
  4. Section 145 of the Penal Code Act penalises same-sex relations. Further, an Anti- Homosexuality Act was operative for 5 months in 2014; during this period numerous cases of violations against the LGBTI community were reported, including arrest, physical violence and harassment.
  5. The Anti-Pornography Act is often misused against WHRDs promoting rights related to gender and bodily

Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda Executive Director, Brenda Kugonza present an oral statement at the CEDAW NGO meeting for Uganda Review on 7th February 2022


We stress that that the enactment of a single law on the protection of HRDs is an important step forwards, but insufficient without a holistic review of the legislative environment in which human rights defenders operate in order to address the root causes of the violence and discrimination that WHRDs are facing in Uganda. Thank you.