Cat-calling in Uganda Now Illegal
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Cat-calling in Uganda Now Illegal

Uganda recently made sweeping changes to its laws governing sexual offences, making cat-calling officially criminal.

The Ugandan government has recently made several changes to pre-existing laws governing a range of sexual offences in the country. Under the new laws, which collectively fall under the Sexual Offences Bill of 2019, cat-calling, indecent public exposure and requests for sexual favours in exchange for a job or academic progress, have been made illegal. The bill was reportedly passed in parliament on Monday, May 3.

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According to local reports, this is the first time that legislation on street harassment, sexual harassment in a professional setting and public sexual assault has been introduced in Uganda. Additionally, the new bill also criminalises child sex work and the tourism industry resulting from it while also addressing, at some level, the nature of consent during sexual intercourse. At the core of this new bill is also the establishment of a sex offenders registry where any individual convicted of a sexual offence will have their data registered onto the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA).

The Legal and Parliamentary Committee chairperson, Mr Jacob Oboth, speaks to the nature of a sexual offence and penalties saying:

"A person who engages in unwelcome touch, patting, pinching or any other unsolicited physical contact with or makes sexually oriented comments, jokes, obscene expressions or offensive flirtations with an employee, student, patient or other person under his or her authority, knowing or having reason to believe that such conduct is not welcome or offensive…commits an offence and is liable on conviction, to a fine not exceeding 2,000 currency points (Shs40 million)."

Some members of parliament have raised concerns over the definition of some of the sexual offences listed with others expressing that the bill does not protect male children to the same extent that it does female children.

While these changes will go a long way in addressing sexual violence, rape culture and sexual harassment in professional settings and on the streets, the bill has also officially banned homosexuality in the country—a major blow to the queer community. Regarded as "unnatural offences", it is now deemed criminal for members of the same sex to engage in sexual acts with the possibility of a five-year prison sentence for those convicted. Members of the LGBT community as well as activists and allies have all expressed outrage at the homophobic legislature and the real-life implications that come with it.