Vouching for the vulnerable people in Parliament – the struggle continues
There is a plan and a purpose, a value to every life no matter what its location age, gender or disability- Sharron Angle
According to research by Lancaster University, vulnerability generally refers to those individuals or groups who, due to age, ill-health, infirmity, minority status or their otherwise disempowered position in society may be open to exploitation (whether physical, emotional or psychological)
Stories of plight of older persons, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), children have been a common occurrence in the newspapers. It is important to note that most of the cases reported are few in comparison to what the situation on the ground is. There are man that go unnoticed and unpunished. When one pays close attention every time they read a newspaper, one will find that daily a story is run on vulnerable persons either: PWDs, the elderly or children among others.
The population of children in Uganda is estimated to be 56% of Uganda’s total population. Survey findings by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) revealed that 12 % of children in Uganda are orphans. About 1.1 million households had at least one orphan; and the Northern region had the highest percentage (20%) of households with 4 or more orphans. More than half (51%) of children aged 5-17 years were economically active while 25% of children were child laborers and 38% of those aged 0-17 years were vulnerable. The survey also showed that there were about 1.3 million older persons (60 years and above) in the country. Most of whom are faced with challenges of looking after grandchildren especially orphans. Overall, 16% of the population aged 5 years and above had a disability. 10% of the Persons with Disabilities aged 6–24 years were not limited by their difficulties to attend school while 13% of those aged 14–64 reported that their ability to work was not affected.
Currently there are three very important legislations on the floor of parliament; the two children’s Act amendment bills 2015; this is because two bills bearing the same number were gazetted and the other is the Persons with Disabilities Bill 2014. While these bills are an achievement for the children and PWDs the process hasn’t been flawless this is perhaps why we see two bills the same in nature presented in parliament.
In the Children’s Act Amendment bill 2015, one of the major causes of contention in the amendment bill is the inter–country adoption of children. Tough laws are incorporated in the bills and government has been accused of laxity in the area since many government officials have gained from illegal adoptions over the years. A solution other than what the bills propose should be ratification of the Hague convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in respect of inter-country Adoptions 1993. That aside there is a row between whose bill should be the lead bill, the issue is currently before the committee on Gender and is yet to be deliberated on.
For The Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014, major stakeholders believe the bill is flawed. When appearing before the parliamentary committee on Gender Labor and Social Development, the PWDs rejected and criticized the bill. The coalition led by Mr. Ambrose Mulangira told the committee that the bill had many loopholes and didn’t protect PWDs. They also decried the bill saying that government was ridding itself of any obligation to people with disabilities because the bill suggests the private sector takes care of PWDs. The bill whose intent is to completely scrap off the Disability Act 2006 hasn’t been owned by the PWDs. Another issue of contention in the bill is that disability can only be proved by a doctor while it should however be noted that disability is a subjective entity of which the presence is to a large extent determined by the person experiencing it. Since the questions rely on self-diagnosis of respondents, caution is required in drawing conclusions and making comparisons about disability.
The NGO community has however called upon the government and the legislators to do more. “It’s time we dropped the façade and turned away from the political jigsaw between Parliament and the Executive and paid attention to the silent majority who are yearning for protection. Parliament and major stakeholders should fast track both bills for that purpose.” – Mrs Stella Ayo – Odongo The Executive Director Uganda Child Rights NGO Network. And I couldn’t agree more.