Parliament’s committee on Human rights on Wednesday tasked the Commissioner General of Prisons Dr. Johnson Byabashaija to explain why prisoners especially those serving long sentences were not having conjugal rights.
The matter was raised by Kassanda South MP Simeo Nsubuga who noted that many prisoners serving long sentences tend to lose touch with their families and hence the need to allow conjugal visits.
Byabashaija said Uganda’s laws have no provision for conjugal rights because they are one of the several limited rights with those in the conflict with the law.
He however, added that though the law is silent on the matter, allowing conjugal visits would stretch the already the already small budget allocated to Uganda prisons.
Bulamogi North West MP Kenneth Lubogo sided with Byabshaija and said that there are other issues that need urgent attention rather than conjugal rights citing congested prisons, children in prison with their mothers and some prisons with no proper waterborne toilets.
‘Sex a fundamental right’
Nsubuga a former police spokesman had argued that conjugal rights for inmates is a basis for preserving and maintaining family bonds as well as helping prisoners to re-adapt quickly to life after prison.
“Arresting a person for 20 years is enough punishment. Sex is a fundamental right and so conjugal visits should be allowed to help a relationship on an emotional breakdown to be maintained throughout the jail period,” he said.
Nsubuga was supported by Kilak North MP Gilbert Olanya who noted that during a committee visit to Masindi prison, they got concerned to find a husband and a wife who had been in detention for 10 years but were only looking at each other.
“Being in prison does not mean that an inmate ceases to have other rights. Prison should not be a vehicle to break people’s homes. How can a husband just admire his wife in prison? This is psychological torture. Why not gazette a place to allow them have sex once in a while” asked Olanya.
Kyaka North Mp Paul Nsabimaana Asaba added that many families had broken up because of conjugal rights.
He urged Uganda prisons to make a budget of the money needed for the construction facilities so that government can quickly look for the money to let prisoners enjoy their human rights.
Asaba cited countries such Germany, Denmark, Spain, Saudi Arabia and Brazil that allow conjugal visit where inmates spend several hours or days with their legal spouses during which parties can have sex.
The MPS also raised concern over the use of buckets in various prison facilities to dump waste commonly known as “Kidoli”.
“As parliament we recommended that the bucket system must be stopped in all prisons, but we were surprised during our field visit to various detention facilities to find the bucket system still being used in small prisons upcountry” said Olanya.
Byabashaija told committee chaired by Mitooma Woman MP Jovah Kamateeka that Uganda prisons lost a major source of funding through the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) by some donor countries as a result of passing the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014.
The interface was about the 17th and 18th annual human rights report of Uganda Human Rights Commission.