According to Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development (MGLSD), between the ages 13 and 17, 25 percent of girls and 11 percent of boys in the country experience sexual violence every year, while the lifetime prevalence of child sexual abuse (CSA) was 35 percent and 17 percent, respectively, as of 2020. The 2018 Uganda Violence Against Children survey found that a quarter of all boys and girls who experience CSA do so before they turn 13 years of age. Recognizing this challenge, Uganda’s government has promulgated a range of legal and policy reforms to combat CSA and other forms of abuse against children. The Children Act was amended in 2016 to explicitly address issues related to CSA, including sexual activity, prostitution, and pornography. This has been followed by the introduction of the National Child Policy (NCP) 2020 and the accompanying National Child Policy 2020–2025 Implementation Plan, which lay out Uganda’s efforts to ensure children’s well-being through five strategy areas: health, education, protection, participation, and systems strengthening.
The MGLSD stands out as the most important organization for combatting CSA due to its role in gender equality and social protection, and particularly its role in coordinating and leading the implementation of the NCP. The Department of Youth and Children Affairs within the MGSLD’s Social Protection Directorate is charged with leading the policy. Another key government body is the National Children Authority, created by the 2016 amendment of the Children Act, which advises the government on policies and plans related to children’s rights, monitors the enforcement and implementation of laws and policies across sectors, and conducts research and collects data, among other responsibilities. Other relevant ministries, departments, and agencies include the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Education and Sports, and the Ministry of Local Government, which have varying degrees of responsibility and engagement on addressing CSA.
As the key document outlining CSA-relevant government programs in Uganda, the NCP contains a clear architecture of programmatic focuses across varied aspects of the government’s efforts to provide for children’s rights, including the designation of specific ministries, departments, and agencies to implement specific parts of the NCP. This clarity and consistency also carries over to the financing plan for the policy. This information, contained within the NCP implementation plan, specifies proposed funding over the FY 2020–21 to FY 2024–25 period, including not just distinction between funding for each of the plan’s five strategy areas but also further detail about funding allocations to specific sub-priorities within each area. This allows for clear interpretation of the plan’s budget, from its overall estimated cost of UGX 277.1 billion over five years; to spending of UGX 70.1 billion on the “Child care and protection” category, which most explicitly contends with CSA, over the same time period; to individual spending priorities within that category, such as capacity building to prevent and respond to violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect (UGX 29.5 billion) and expanding access to family strengthening and support services to vulnerable families (UGX 25.7 billion). Likewise, the document states that the “Child care and protection” strategy area accounts for 25.5 percent of the NCP’s funding, the second-largest allocation within the plan after “Child health and survival” (UGX 161.1 billion), followed by “Education and development” (UGX 25.3 billion), “Systems strengthening” (UGX 15.6 billion), and “Child participation” (5.2 billion).
National Child Policy Implementation Plan 2020–2025 — Childcare and Protection
Data Source: National Children Policy Implementation Plan, 2020-2025.
The ministry’s overall total approved estimated budget rose to UGX 249.8 billion (just over 0.1 percent of Uganda’s total budget) in FY 2022–23, reflecting a significant growth from recent years. In part, this may be explained by greatly increased allocations to two CSA-relevant funding lines: “Youth and children affairs” and “Gender and women affairs.” (See Figure 2.) According to the FY 2022–23 budget, funding for “Youth and children affairs” can be split further into “Policies, regulations and standards” and “Support to special interest groups,” the latter of which includes various allocations for remand homes, rehabilitation centers, and other services. The “Gender and women affairs” category includes UGX 100.0 million for response to gender-based violence, though neither this nor its other sub-categories mention children specifically. While efforts to combat and respond to CSA likely fall under these categories, and while other categories like “Equity and rights” and “Culture and family affairs” may also be relevant to CSA, the budget does not go into sufficient detail to clarify.
MGLSD Total Approved Estimates and CSA-Relevant Funding Lines
Data Source: Approved Budgets Estimates 2018–19, 2019–20, 2020–21, 2021–22, 2022–23.
Note: In the FY 2022–23 budget, “Youth and children,” “Equity and rights,” and “Gender and women affairs” all fall under a new program heading “Human Capital Development” and a new sub-program “Gender and Social Protection.” In earlier budgets, these are split between “Social protection to vulnerable groups” and “Gender equality and women’s empowerment.” Given the consistency in naming of these budget lines, these are assumed to be the same.
Budget information for the MGLSD also shows contributions toward the National Children Authority. The available national-level budget documentation shows an allocation from MGLSD of UGX 0.9 billion in FY 2022–23, with funding slightly decreasing since FY 2018–19. However, neither the budget estimates nor the organization’s website offers additional information regarding how this money is spent, so it remains unspecified how much of this allocation is relevant to fighting CSA.
MGLSD Funding to National Children Authority
According to the NCP, other ministries that also serve a role in child protection include the Ministry of Local Government, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Education and Sports. However, national budget estimates offer few details of spending specific to supporting the NCP, and therefore CSA, and related work. For example, under the NCP, the Ministry of Local Government is charged with improving the well-being of children, tracking child care and protection at the local government level, and maintaining a social service workforce, but annual budget estimates do not include line items specific to these goals. The same can be said of potentially relevant funding within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, such as for “Offenders rehabilitation and reintegration” (UGX 1.4 billion in FY 2022–23), since this is not specific just to offenders in CSA cases. Overall, providing greater clarity on the movement of resources through all ministries relevant to the NCP would help clarify the scope and intensity of the effort, as well as identify any outstanding gaps to be addressed.
The government of Uganda is dedicating resources to prevent and end CSA, with the 2020 National Child Policy guiding its approach. The policy provides a clear institutional framework and budgetary commitments, through the accompanying implementation plan, to protect the rights of children. This includes explicit funding allocations to priorities directly relevant to responding to CSA, such as improving child protection against violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect; supporting vulnerable families; providing for alternative care beyond the family; and engaging communities in responding to violence against children. The MGLSD bears primary responsibility for the NCP, and budgetary allocations offer some indication of this role through funding to social protection of vulnerable groups, family affairs, and gender-related issues, as well as contributions to the National Children Authority. Funding to the MGLSD has also increased over the last five years, including to “Youth and children affairs,” which saw a boost in funding of more than UGX 20 billion between FY 2021–22 and FY 2022–23. Together, the clear planning within the NCP and the concomitant designation of budgetary resources offers a positive signal of the government’s commitment to fight CSA.
The clear planning within the National Child Policy and the concomitant designation of budgetary resources offers a positive signal of the government’s commitment to fight CSA.
However, there are areas of Uganda’s approach to addressing CSA that could use additional clarity. Chief among these are the commitments being made by government ministries beyond the MGLSD. These ministries, from the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to the Ministry of Health, are highlighted within the NCP as playing roles relevant to child protection and care, but available budget estimates generally do not clarify spending lines that are relevant to fighting CSA or implementing the NCP more broadly. According to Janet Aguti, founder of Totya Platform, “Sexual violence has proven to be one of the largest social problems that we have worldwide, and the way it is being handled in Uganda is different from the way it is being handled in other developed countries . . . proper resource allocation would be of greater help to reduce cases day by day.” The ability to track funding for the NCP consistently throughout all relevant ministries would greatly aid in gauging the relative roles of different ministries as well as the continuity of specific efforts over time.