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Uganda: Draft Law on Domestic Violence Criminalizes Abusive SMS Messages

(June 25, 2009) It was reported on June 21, 2009, that Fred Ruhindi, Minister of State for Justice and Constitutional Affairs and Deputy Attorney General, introduced in the parliament a new bill, Domestic Violence Bill 2009, designed to extend certain protections to victims of domestic violence and punish perpetrators. (Catherine Bekunda & Milton Olupot, Couples Face Jail over SMS, THE NEW VISION, June 21, 2009, available at

The bill gives the jurisdiction to try domestic violence matters to local councils, local elected governments within districts, magistrates' courts, and family and children's courts on the basis of the seriousness of the case. The bill allows for a complaint to be made either to the police or the local council court. (Id.)

The bill goes so far as to criminalize abusive calls and Short Message Service (SMS) messages. Under the bill, a person who makes such a call or sends such a message will, on conviction, be subject to two years of imprisonment or a fine in the amount of UGX960,000 (about US$464). In addition, the court will have the power to award damages for pain and suffering. (Id.)