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Uganda: Parliament Approves Anti-Pornography Bill

(Dec. 23, 2013) On December 18, 2013, Uganda’s 375-member unicameral Parliament adopted the Anti-Pornography Bill, 2011, which seeks to establish a catch-all offense of pornography and provide a comprehensive legal regime on the subject. (Yasiin Mugerwa & Nelson Wesonga, MPs Pass Bill Against Miniskirts, DAILY MONITOR (Dec. 19, 2013); Parliament Passes Anti-Pornography Law, Parliament of the Republic of Uganda website [hereinafter Parliament website] (Dec. 20, 2013).) The legislation must be signed by the President or passed again by Parliament with the support of at least two-thirds of all its members before it can become law. (The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995, § 91, Parliament website.)


This legislation is not the first of its kind in the country. Currently, the Penal Code criminalizes certain acts, including making, publishing, possessing, importing and/or exporting, or advertising what are considered “obscene” materials. (The Penal Code Act (1950) § 166, LAWS OF UGANDA, Cap. 120 (rev. ed., 2000), World Intellectual Property Organization website.) Violation of this provision is a misdemeanor, on conviction publishable by a fine or two years of imprisonment. (Id.) The Computer Misuse Act of 2011, among other measures, also bans the possession, procurement, production, and distribution of “child pornography,” the violation of which is, on conviction, publishable by a fine and/or up to 15 years of imprisonment. (Computer Misuse Act, No. 2 of 2011, § 2, CIV ACTS SUPPLEMENT TO THE UGANDA GAZETTE (ASUG), No. 10, (Feb 14, 2011), Uganda Legal Information Institute (ULII).)

In addition, the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2009 makes trafficking in persons for the purpose of engaging them in pornography an offense punishable by 15 years in prison. (Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2009, § 3, CII ASUG, No. 52 (Oct. 23, 2009), The Way Forward Project website.) It also makes certain other acts, including advertising, publishing, or distributing any pornographic material for the purpose of facilitating trafficking in persons, a crime punishable by seven years in prison. (Id. § 7.)

Features of the Bill

The new legislation seeks to expand on existing laws by casting a much wider net. It does this by adopting a broad definition of the term “pornography,” considering it to be:

any cultural practice, radio or television programme, writing, publication, advertisement, broadcast, upload on internet, display, entertainment, music, dance, picture, audio or video recording, show, exhibition or any combination of the preceeding that depicts –

a) a person engaged in explicit sexual activities or conduct;

b) sexual parts of a person such as breasts, thighs, buttocks or genitalia;

c) erotic behaviour intended to cause sexual excitement; or

d) any indecent act or behaviour tending to corrupt morals. (The Anti-Pornography Bill, 2011, CIV BILLS SUPPLEMENT TO THE UGANDA GAZETTE, No. 70 (Nov. 25, 2011).)

Under this legislation, a person who produces, procures, broadcasts, or imports or exports any form of pornography would commit an offense and on conviction would be punished with a fine of up to UGX10 million (about US$3,992) or up to ten years of imprisonment. (Id. § 13.) If the pornography involves children, a higher penalty would apply: a fine of UGX15 million (about US$4,380) or up to 15 years of imprisonment, or both. (Id. § 14.)

The legislation also seeks to establish a nine-member Anti-Pornography Committee, with educational and policing mandates. Members of the Committee will represent different industries and walks of life, including the media, publishing houses, and cultural and religious leaders. (Id. § 3.) Among other functions, the Committee will be entrusted with making sure that “the perpetrators of pornography are apprehended and prosecuted,” educating the public about pornography, and collecting and destroying pornographic materials. (Id. § 7.)