The Government of Uganda and UNICEF earlier today launched a child-friendly justice handbook to guide prosecutors and other actors in the criminal justice system, in handling child-related cases in a child-friendly and gender responsive manner. The handbook is produced by the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with technical and financial support from UNICEF as well as financial support from the Justice, Law and Order Sector. The UK government provided financial support to the process through UNICEF. The handbook will be used by prosecutors and other state as well as non-state actors and institutions in the criminal justice system.
“The handbook is an excellent guide in improving the delivery of justice to children, strengthening child protection structures and helping build a protective environment for children. It will subsequently lead to the rehabilitation and reintegration of children in conflict with the law,” says Mike Chibita, the Director of Public Prosecutions.
According to the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) Annual Report 2013, there were 1,256 juvenile offenders in the year 2011-12. In 2012, the Uganda Police Force arrested an average of six juveniles per 100,000 of the child population.
More often than not, prior to sentencing, child offenders are held with adults, due to lack of separate holding facilities at police stations, which increases the risk of violence, abuse and exploitation. The conditions of detention are sometimes sub-standard, overcrowded and deny children their rights, such as the right to legal representation, parental access, and appropriate standards of health. Detention rarely results in the child’s reintegration and the child assuming a constructive role in society, which should be the objective of any justice intervention in line with the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC).
In addition, children’s cases are often processed through justice systems designed for adults that are not adapted to children’s rights and specific needs.
Source: www.dpp.go.ug | Published: April 27, 2016
In April 2016, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions launched the Handbook on ‘Prosecuting Child-Related Cases in Uganda’ with the support of UNICEF. The handbook clearly outlines the roles of prosecutors, police and other justice officials in responding to children who come in contact or in conflict with the law.
Following the launch, the DPP held trainings for police and prosecutors on child friendly justice in Arua, Fort Portal, Gulu, Jinja, Mbarara, Masaka and Soroti. The trainings covered topics from the handbook, including the means of ensuring a child sensitive justice response through tailored interview techniques; the priority to find alternative measures to detention for children; specialised responses for survivors of sexual and gender based violence; and capacity development on the emerging area of online child protection.
On 17 and 18 May in Arua, 21 officers from the DPP and Uganda Police Force received the training. Highlights from the sessions included the importance of children’s cases being dismissed or processed through the courts within 3 months. This linked into discussion on the necessity to strengthen the practice of diversion, whereby children who commit petty offences can be released from custody, or redirected to counselling or community service.
On 19 and 20 May in Gulu, 16 officers from the DPP and UPF were trained. Notable discussions included the importance of medical examinations for survivors of sexual violence, and the need for sensitised coordination between all justice actors on children’s cases.
Overall, the trainings strengthened the abilities of DPP and UPF officers in the districts to respond to cases in line with the unique needs and best interests of children.
President Museveni has assented to the Children’s (Amendment) Bill 2015, which seeks to strengthen the protection of children’s rights and restrict legal guardianship of children to Ugandan citizens. The President assented to the Bill on May 20, two months after the Bill was passed by Parliament. The law amends the old Children Act, 1997 (cap 59), which focused on the basic needs of the child. The passing of the legislation followed a push for a watertight law to protect Uganda’s children being exposed to abuse and exploitation by those who take advantage of the gaps in the parent law.
The Act also provides for guardianship of children; prohibit corporal punishment and other related matters.
The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), an organisation which promotes children’s rights in Uganda, hailed the move as a milestone in promoting human rights. Uganda ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, committing itself to putting children first so that they grow, survive and reach their full potential. The Justice, Law and Order Sector with support from UNICEF is currently implementing the Justice for Children (J4C) Programme whose is aim is to strengthen the overall sector’s capacity to respond to the needs of children in the justice system
Clause 11 of Act offers clarity on guardianship. It introduces legal customary guardianship in which guardianship is only possible if there are no relatives willing to look after the child or if alternative care options have been exhausted; and is restricted to only Ugandans.
Non-Inter-country adoption will be a matter of last resort after other alternative care options have been exhausted and clarify on the offences of an administrator of the estate of a child to ensure that children’s property is not abused.
Published: June 2, 2016
What led to your interest in child protection work and working with UNICEF? How would you describe yourself and your role on the J4C program?
My background and interest in social work and human rights was in a way ingrained as I had completed my masters in Sociology and had been inspired by my two my teachers who were brilliant and incisive in encouraging students to go beyond the syllabi and get involved. I joined a study circle on women’s studies during my Masters and the discrimination of gender, social stratification and class made me conscious of my own relatively privileged background. My parents were also a strong influence with their values and learning, especially my mother who was a post graduate in Economics as early as 1935 when most women globally did not have equal opportunities!
I started working with fishermen communities and youth on survival issues along the coast of southern India strengthening community disaster preparedness including awareness on alternatives to pesticides which was poisoning the environment and driving the farmers to indebtedness and suicides.
I also saw that although women did most of the work in agriculture they were not recognized as farmers in their own right and had little or no access to credit. They were not paid minimum wages and were often discriminated although they did most of the same tasks as men did and if they were women from the lower castes in India they were socially discriminated and exploited.
I joined an organization that was empowering Dalit (the lowest caste in India) to upgrade their agricultural skills, be aware of their rights and speak up to participate in the development process.
I think this has been one of the high points in my life as I learnt so much from community women, their struggles to raise their families, cope with migration of husbands in search of work, wanting a better life for their children and balancing endless demands from the families who took all what they did for granted ..
It was amazing to see the solidarity emerge and as the women’s groups collectively took up dry land farming and negotiating for better conditions, access to bank credit, training and upgrading technical skills that helped them to evolve as managers and not just landless labourers by the system .. Seeing them emerge as confident women and address discrimination was the biggest learning experience for me…. .
Robert Chambers the pioneer of Participatory Rural appraisal (PRA ) as it was called then came to India and his first PRA was in one of the villages where we had started interventions.I met Robert Chambers at IDS UK after 20 years and we relived the excitement of that exercise!
At this point of time UNICEF had asked us to undertake a PRA on assessment of education needs for children and the social factors that governed learning including the child labour issue and the caste dimension. It seemed to make sense to then join UNICEF which offered a vision of the CRC and a canvas that was large enough to influence systems. I also had the advantage of knowing the impact of systems first hand at the actual user level and was able to advocate on the specifics that the system needed to change. In the meantime thanks to a recommendation by one of India’s leading jurists Justice Krishna Iyer I had a chance to go to the Institute of social Studies at the Hague and got a teaching certificate in Law social justice and Human rights. I also completed my post-graduation diploma in Human rights .
My work on child protection has spanned almost 23 years in UNICEF and working on having an integrated institutionalized approach to addressing issues than ad hoc solutions which were temporary and fizzled out once the funds ran out. Development of legislative standards, capacity building, budget provision, human resources planning, monitoring mechanisms are key to systems strengthening.
I was lucky to work with a great network of people across the country, people who shared knowledge information and put the issue above individual credit and focus….
UNICEF backed me completely although there were no tried and tested remedies at that point in time. .. The work on community based prevention of trafficking with coordination from police, courts, ministries of women and child development, income generation were held up as Best Practices internationally at the World Congress in Brazil.
My interest in child justice issues stemmed from the fact that while reviewing legislation on trafficking, child labour, children in detention across south and south east Asia the lack of child specific standards were a big challenge.. The critical component of child sensitive justice standards was missing and most people looked at children as ‘mini adults”.
The awareness on the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the obligations to domesticate national legislation, the allocation of resources both human and financial were the key components that UNICEF focused on.
Coming to Uganda in April 2012 I was very excited and also impressed with the conceptual clarity on many child protection issues as well as the JLOS sector approach which is indeed a pioneering step well appreciated both in Africa and beyond .What was a challenge was the gap between conceptual clarity and implementation! The J4C intervention was launched by JLOS in partnership the Centre for justice studies and innovations in May 2012. I was lucky to have the privilege of seeing the programme evolve and integrate into the key institutions like judiciary, prosecution, police and probation which is indeed very satisfying!
When did you start working in Uganda and do you remember how your first week went? What past experiences supported or informed your work on child justice in Uganda?
My first week was very interesting and informative. I was at the Commonwealth Judges Conference which Uganda was hosting along with the Chief of Child Protection and UNICEF was asked to make a presentation on Justice For children. I recall working very hard on the presentation!! This was followed by my attending the JLOS Programme review at Munyono. I was feeling quite lost as I hardly knew anybody then. Little did I anticipate that I would leave Uganda as part of the JLOS family! My work with law enforcement, legislative standards coupled with a familiarity of how systems work as well as my training and background in Human Rights helped me to navigate the issues on Justice for children in Uganda relatively quickly as I had worked with governments in South Asia (India, Sri Lanka ) and partly in Thailand as a NGO and understood their strength as well as their complexity well . I also strongly believe that the best experience and knowledge is within the system. The only thing is we need to tap it !
What are the similarities and differences between Uganda and other contexts where you have worked?
Systems are pretty much similar, and Commonwealth countries have basically similar legislative and administrative structures. The biggest challenges across countries is to make the governments see the value in investing in children and child justice issues neither trivializing nor dramatizing them. Governments have many constituencies to answer to and making Children visible on their agenda is not always easy .Coordination among institutions, understanding that an integrated approach does not undermine individual institutions and actually optimizes results are the common thread across .
In Uganda I was impressed by the accessibility and the involvement decision makers whether at High court, Uganda Police, DPP, Gender-, JLOS Secretariat the openness with which we were able to discuss relatively sensitive issues of defilement, children in detention, backlog of cases, was very encouraging.
In your view what are the three main successes of the J4C programme?
It is difficult to really call anything a success so soon in terms of institution building! In my view the acceptance and integration of the Justice For children issue into the mainstream justice system is a good augury given the fact that Uganda now has almost 20 million children under 18 and it is good that we prepare to deal with this demographic within the justice sector. The issue of reform across the sector and its implications for children this was very exciting. The analysis and review of the work flow process led by JLOS was very challenging it had to have the individual institutions dealing with children in the justice process review, identify gaps and recommend changes which were then approved by the highest authority – the Chief Justice . This now becomes the basis for the costing of the child justice process leading to better planning and integrated way of working.
What are the upcoming challenges?
The challenge of children in remand, the process of developing diversion standards, bridging the gap between probation and courts by piloting innovations in Naguru Remand Home , the piloting of the victim and witness protection measures in four of the eight High Court circuits agreed to are very exciting and momentous changes that are in place . The joint training of CID/CFPU/DPP officers to address issues of VAC in a coordinated manner were some key milestones
The J4C coordinators and the catalyst action is increasingly being recognized as an important ingredient towards speedy disposal and preventing children from entering the formal justice sector.
Upcoming challenges include consolidation of the ongoing interventions, ensuring court practices become child friendly, separation of probation from welfare services to ensure qualitative rehabilitation and reintegration of children embracing technology and thinking out of the box to address systemic gaps than wait for lengthy administrative processes – why not have video links to review cases? Data management on children’s issues both civil and criminal issues (adoption, inheritance, gender issues), strengthening of family courts are very critical. Emerging issues like child online abuse need to be addressed
The links between informal and formal justice systems needs to be strengthened and need to formalize the Fit persons and Fit institutions aspects in the Child act are crucial.
Future Plans and parting thoughts
I am grateful that I had an opportunity to work with individuals and institutions who were very open and supportive and most importantly worked together with UNICEF as a team in making things better for children. With the commitment, ownership and vision provided so far by the JLOS sector I am confident that Uganda will continue to innovate and implement a very successful J4C programme.
Published: May 28, 2016 | Check out more JLOS exclusive interviews HERE
UNICEF promotes birth registration as a human right and has had a pioneering role in advocating for, and successfully supporting birth registration programs in many parts of the world, leading to a level of commitment among governments and bringing about greater efficiency in systems that register births.
In the recent past, UNICEF has also taken lead in innovating for children through harnessing available low cost technologies. One such clear opportunity for innovation has been the development and use of mobile and internet technologies to support UNICEF and partners to deliver results for children more efficiently and effectively. In Uganda for example, a solution known as Mobile Vital Records Systems (Mobile VRS) was developed with support from UNICEF, under a public private partnership with Uganda Telecom. Mobile VRS uses low cost technology to capture births and deaths registration data at community and hospital levels, and transmit it into a central government server in real time using mobile phones and a web-based application respectively.
This system which is currently in use in all 135 government and missionary hospitals, and in half of the 112 district local governments, has in almost three years, increased national birth registration rates by an estimated 30 percent point increase from 30% in 2011 (UDHS 2011) to an estimated 60% at the end of 2014 (Mobile VRS/Administrative data). (See Annex 1)
UNICEF aims to support government of Uganda to scale up this solution to the remaining 54 districts and in over 200 Health Center IVs that were designated as birth and death registration districts in late 2014. Uganda has shared and continues to share this innovative best practice that could greatly improve delivery of, and access to birth registration services to all children including those in remote and hard to reach areas.
While birth registration is compulsory for all people in Uganda according to the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1970, the reality is that recent estimates from Mobile VRS and administrative data indicate that about 2.8 million of the approximately 7 million children under the age of 5 years in Uganda are not registered. Without a legal identity that comes with birth registration, a child may not be able to prove their age, nationality and parentage, and as a result, they will not have institutional protection and are more vulnerable to exploitation, violence, neglect, early marriages, child labour, sexual trafficking and slavery. They may also not be able to claim basic services, such as access to education and health, as well as social protection.
Even though URSB is decentralizing the final birth registration services (issuance of long birth certificates) away from Kampala into its regional offices, to make them more accessible, they remain far from the communities, and the barriers of inaccessibility due to long distances, significant waiting times, registration fees and other associated hidden costs are only reduced slightly. In districts with manual and paper-based registration systems, it takes several months from the time a child is registered to the time they receive their birth certificates, particularly for children born out of hospitals.
With an estimated 1.5 each year million births in Uganda that needs to be registered, the requests pile up due to their quantity and the tardiness of the data processing in all involved units.
The birth registration process is also poorly understood, and many people do not know where and how to obtain a birth certificate. In a mobile phone survey conducted in 2012 by UNICEF Uganda, 60% of respondents did not know where to go to register a birth.
Lastly, birth registration data is an essential prerequisite for the implementation of adequate legislation, policies, as well as planning and delivery of basic social services for children. It will also soon be linked to the National ID as per the Registration of Persons Bill which was approved by Cabinet and whose intentions are to harmonize and consolidate the law on registration of persons, to provide for registration of individuals and to establish a national identification register. Birth registration is thus a critical contributor to good governance.
As a response, UNICEF partnered with Uganda Telecom under a Public Private Partnership, and supported Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), the government institution responsible for Civil Registration, to develop a solution known as Mobile Vital Records System (Mobile VRS). This system uses local mobile and internet technology to capture births and deaths registration data at community and hospital levels respectively. Information on birth records is transmitted in real time using pre-registered mobile phones in the community, and a web-based application in hospitals and district local governments, into a central government civil registry server. This makes the birth registration process faster, more accessible and more reliable, and the system is currently used in all 135 government and missionary hospitals, and in 58 out of 112 district local governments.
Other planned actions include supporting development of a national policy on birth and death registration, capacity development of registrars and notifiers in the remaining 54 districts and over 200 Health Center IVs that have not yet started using Mobile VRS, system strengthening in the 135 hospitals and 58 districts that are already using Mobile VRS to register birth, advocacy with parliamentarians for increased government funding, builder partnerships with FBOs, CSOs and the private sector for improved service delivery and creating demand for birth registration through awareness creation on the importance of birth registration.
As part of South to South learning, Uganda has also shared with over 20 countries how the mobile and internet technologies can be used to improve delivery of real time birth registration services to all children, including those in hard to reach areas. Uganda will continue to share knowledge and experiences in the region and beyond, providing increased opportunities for effective registration services using innovative methods to millions of children.
Through this initiative, which is currently functional in all 135 government and missionary hospitals and in only 58 of the 112 district local governments, the percentage of birth registration in Uganda, has increased from 30% in 2011 to an estimated 60% by the end of December 2014. This estimated 30% increase in three years is a big improvement considering that national birth registration rates for under 5s increased by only 9 percent points over a 5 year period from 21% in 2006 (UDHS 2006) to 30% in 2011 (UDHS 2011).
Therefore scaling up the use of Mobile VRS in the remaining 54 local governments and introducing it to the approximately 200 Health center IVs which were gazetted as birth registration districts at the end of 2014, would provide a significant opportunity to increase the birth registration rates for all children including the under 5s, for a target of at least 90% registration has been set in the GOU-UNICEF Country Programme results of 2016 to 2020.
The design of the Mobile VRS system emphasizes cost effectiveness and long term sustainability. By building a system that leverages very high ownership rates of the most basic mobile phone handsets by designated “Notifiers,” initial investments significantly decreased and concerns about the replacement of old, lost or stolen phones are significantly decreased. UNICEF also supported URSB to acquire a single USSD code number 280 for Mobile VRS, which enables notifiers across different telecommunication networks (MTN, Uganda Telecom and Airtel) to use the same code over their respective sim-cards thereby cutting out the need to purchase and distribute mobile phones to notifiers.
The initial costs of setting up this system (hardware and software development, training, and initial system monitoring) is where the bulk of the investment lies. Recurrent, or ongoing costs, should be quite modest compared to the results achieved. The recurrent per transaction costs of capturing, digitizing and transferring the birth registration records is estimated at about only US$0.5 for every birth or death entered into the system.
The budget estimate is based on observed investment costs while supporting strengthening of the capacities of registrars in 58 districts and 135 hospitals that are already using Mobile VRS to register births. This budget will over technical support to government on birth registration, capacity development for staff and procurement and distribution of ICT equipment (Computer, printer, internet modem, data) to the remaining 54 districts and over 200 Health Center IVs to which Mobile VRS will be introduced, overall system strengthening, travel and administrative costs.
Funds from UNICEF core resources will be used to support policy development and legislative reforms, social mobilization for improved public awareness about the importance of birth registration, advocacy work with parliamentarians for increased government funding, as well as contribute to building and strengthening the capacity of URSB to plan, coordinate and give oversight to the entire national birth and death registration exercise.
Justice for Children (J4C) Program is an initiative of the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) funded by UNICEF and implemented by the Centre for Justice Studies and Innovations (CJSI). The Program, which has just launched its second year, is aimed at strengthening the overall sector’s capacity to respond to the needs of children in the justice system. J4C has adopted a new approach to child justice by advocating for justice for all children, not only children in conflict with the law.
DCC and Justice for Children News Bulletin (October 2012) is a monthly update on the ongoing work in the sixteen District Chain-linked Committees involved in the Justice, Law and Order Sector’s Justice for Children (J4C) Programme, implemented by the Centre for Justice Studies and Innovations (CJSI) and funded by UNICEF. DCC News contains information on the regular and noteworthy practices of these 16 DCC’s, as well as information on key cases relating to children in each district, input from key actors and other information relevant for the improvement of DCC collaboration across J4C sites.
The first Issue of DCC News will introduce you to the J4C program, the composition of the DCC’s in the pilot sites and the Steering Committee at the national level. Upcoming issues will provide program updates in program implementation, emerging practices, events Updates, Best Practices and information of the kind.
Contributions are welcome from all readers. J4C would love to hear about your positive results, difficult experiences, innovative solutions, best practices, interesting cases, upcoming events or any other information relating to justice for children.
For more information or to submit an article, please contact your local J4C Coordinator or the editor of this newsletter, Camilla Dalla-Favera, at 0793202481 or contact[at]cjsi.org.
By Edgar Kuhimbisa | Published: December 10 2012