Women Legislators have called on the House to enact laws that regulate digital platforms.
MPs led by Margaret Makhoha (Namayingo Woman MP) the chairperson of Uganda Parliamentary Forum for Children (UPFC) say this will bring down Child Sexual Exploitation which is rife on the internet.
UPFC is a platform where MPs collectively lobby for the rights of children in situations of competing needs and priorities where children’s rights are often neglected.
Addressing the press at Parliament on Makhoha said : “As part of our mandate, the House have to ensure that they pass child-focused, friendly legislation and budgets. Our primary role is to monitor the national policy environment as far as they affect children and to provide regular updates on national policy and legislative priorities that will enhance program linkages for the better protection of child rights,”
Makhoha said this in commemoration of the International Day of the African Child under the theme “The Rights of the Child in the Digital Environment,” and that is clearly relevant seeing the epochal shift caused by the digital revolution.”
“ This presents a reflection for Uganda as on the contemporary and future effects of the digital environment on the rights and freedoms of children,” said Makhoha.
Makhoha explained : “As a Forum(UPFC), we are alarmed by the excessive unsafe and extreme content that is easily accessible to children of all ages. We applaud the government for the efforts done to regulate content and restrict children’s access to unsafe content however this has not kept pace with the technological shifts.”
The Rights and Welfare of the Child are currently embedded in a number of Uganda’s laws including the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, the Children Act Cap. 59, the Anti-Pornography Act, 2014, the Computer Misuse Act, 2011 and the Data Protection and Privacy Act, 2019.
She added: “Notwithstanding the existing laws on protection and promotion of children’s rights in the digital environment, there are still cases of cybercrime reported in the country and according to the 2022 Uganda Police Annual Crime Report, a total of 286 cases of cybercrime were reported implying that children are still susceptible to greater risks of exposure to the digital environment.”
“The Forum is not aiming at raising a private Members Bill, to bring down Child Sexual Exploitation ,however we want to work with government to enact laws and revise the existing ones, to protect children from all forms of abuse,” said Makhoha.
Other district women Legislators in attendance were Apolot Christine (Kuumi ),Betty Ethel Naluyima(Wakiso),Flavia Kabahenda (Kyegegwa), Hellen Kahunde (Kiryandongo), Zumura Maneno (Obongi),Lucy Akello Amuru) and a male MP Silas Aogon (Kuumi municipality) funded by Save the children Fund is an international, non-government organization. with the goal of helping improve the lives of children worldwide.
Kabahenda said with tik tok is gaining popularity in Uganda daily, crooked individuals are using the platform to lure unsuspecting children, look for quick jobs, for survival and hunt for money.
Naluyima explained Parents should help their child navigate the digital landscape with the same etiquette you would expect from them in the real world. Instill in them the value of good behavior, both offline and online.
“Parents explain to children the consequences of cyberbullying, owning and distributing pornographic material, and unethical hacking. Let them know that there are laws that protect victims of such crimes.”
Aogon Silus warned Parents : “ Our phones are part of modern-day life, and that’s not likely to change. But as a parent or caregiver, if you spend too much time scrolling when you’re with your child, it can affect their communication development.”
Benjamin Waburoko, Child Rights and Child Protection Specialist Save the Children said it is critical to protection of children in the digital environment.
“We call upon the Government to make deliberate efforts to allocate resources for different institutions that promote and protect children’s rights. Improved capacity of these institutions will enable tracking and follow up of reported cases and offer durable solutions to the children that have been abused.” Waburoko, said.
“Parliament needs to track the weak legal framework to ensure children are protected from online abuse and exploitation. There is need to legislate against social media and its impact on children safety.
Waburoko said “Parliament and partners including civic society groups need to increase awareness creation among the general population and particularly children on the risks and dangers associated with digital revolution and where necessary take measures to ensure children’s rights are protected.”
Maneno emphasized the need for local government In an effort to address child-related tribulations in Uganda, there is need for local governments at all levels to re-focus their plans and budgets to allocate resources that will enable them deal with the increasing child rights violations in communities such as child labour, child neglect and abandonment, teenage pregnancy and child marriages among others.
Maneno revealed that though Local Governments are the custodians of the law and are supposed to allocate funds to cater and advocate for the rights of the children, most of them do not give it attention.
Maneno called up on all parents, guardians, children care takers to ensure they acquire birth certificates for the children It is important that they register their children and get a birth certificate for them so that they can access services easily.
Maneno explained : “Birth registration is the process by which a child’s birth is recorded in the Civil Register by the government authority called National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA).”
Maneno added Every child has a right to a name and nationality. Birth registration therefore is important because it:
the Birth certificate Serves as proof of parents before the law to provide legal protection for their children, establishes citizenship and nationality of the child, Proves the legal relationship between parents and a child.
Maneno said a birth certificates Facilitates access to education and health care services, offers protection against exploitation, including trafficking, illegal adoption, child labour, child marriage and early military recruitment.
Luccy Akello blamed the ministry of The Ministry of Health had proposed to have children as young as 10 years old access family planning services as one of the means to reduce early pregnancies among adolescents 10-year-old children to get family planning I condemned the policy, insisting that moral values must be maintained among the young people and urged the government to protect the young generation from being “exploited by money minded Ugandans”. Why should we focus on adolescent health?
“ Why should the 10 year pupils be taught family planning methods and contraceptives? Akello asked Create safe spaces where parents/caregivers can easily communicate to adolescents about delaying sexual relations, avoiding smoking, drinking alcohol and taking drugs.