Kampala, June 7, 2017 - Ugandan High Court decision has won the People’s Choice Gavel at the 2017 Gender Justice Uncovered Awards for advancing the rights of women and girls. The annual Gender Justice Uncovered Awards are hosted by Women’s Link Worldwide, an international organisation to shed light on the positive and negative impacts court decisions have on the lives of women and girls around the world.
In January, Justice Lydia Mugambe ruled on the case of a missing baby from Mulago Hospital, Uganda's only national referral hospital. She ruled that a public hospital’s negligence resulting in the disappearance of a couple’s baby resulted in psychological torture for the parents and violated their rights to health and access to information. The couple was also granted compensation for 85 million Uganda shillings.
In an online process, Justice Mugambe's decision garnered 3,829 votes to beat 17 other rulings that were nominated for the best judicial decision from all around the world.
"The court decision stood out because it recognized the need to not only address the human rights of the couple who were parties to the case, but also the failure on the part of the state of Uganda to fulfill its obligation of the right to health."- Lydia Muthiani, Women’s Link attorney.
Justice Mugambe's decision specifies that a woman’s inability to access sufficient antenatal care demonstrates a failure on the part of the State to fulfill its obligations under the right to health. It points out that States also have an obligation to devote special attention and resources to women whose circumstances make them vulnerable and those who suffer from multiple forms of inequality. The Court also pointed to overburdened hospital staff which led to errors as another example of the failure to comply with obligations under the right to health.
A Uganda social justice advocacy organisation, the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) and the parents of the child sued the attorney general and executive director of Mulago hospital for unlawful disappearance of their baby.
"We applaud the Judiciary for upholding health and human rights of Ms. Jennifer Musimenta and her husand Mr. Michael Mubangizi at a time when they had no recourse for justice"- Moses Mulumba Executive Director, CEHURD. "This award comes at a crucial time. The ruling required the Uganda Police to make a report on the where about of this couple's child within six months but we are yet to hear from them. Mulago National Referral Hospital is required to take steps to ensure and enhance the respect, movement and safety of babies, dead or alive, in its facilities as well as make written reports every four months. We call upon Mulago and the Uganda Police to respect and implement this decision to ensure that Justice in our community prevails."
Why the ruling is important for Uganda?
Uganda's maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality ratios remain high. Uganda is one of ten countries that account for nearly 59% of global maternal deaths at about 343 mothers lost per 100,000 births (UNICEF 2016). Neonatal mortality rate is at about 29 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Studies show most women in Uganda have registered late antenatal attendance, averagely at 5.5 months of pregnancy and many do not complete the required four visits. Uganda's doctor to patient ratio was estimated at one to 24,725 in 2013, with a nurse to patient ratio of one to 11,000 according to the Budget Monitoring and Accountability Unit in the Ministry of Health report .
Other rulings from African Courts that have won an Award:
- The High Court of Tanzania takes the Bronze Gavel (court ruling with a positive effect on women and girls’ lives) for its ruling instructing the government to ban child marriage and set the legal age for marriage at 18 for both sexes.
- The Golden Bludgeon (court ruling with a negative effect on women and girls’ lives) went to the High Court of Kenya for its decision to acquit a man for carrying on a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl, on basis that girls often make false reports of non-consensual sex.
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