Women activists under the Women Human Rights Defenders Network-Uganda (WHRDN) have decried the shrinking space for human rights defenders to conduct their activities in the country.
The women made the cry on Thursday during the launch of the Network in Kampala as well as commemorating the International Day for Women Rights Defenders as part of activities in the 16 Days of Activism Campaign on violence against women.
The group led by the Steering Committee Chairperson, Rhema Kulaba, Brenda Kugonza, Pamela Angwech, Beatrice Okot among others told the media that human rights defenders have continued to be abused at the watch of security agents and duty bearers.
Brenda Kugonza a member of the steering committee noted that laws which include the Public order Management ACT and the NGO law continue to frustrate their activities. She said that the said laws have been used to restrict rights campaigners whenever they opt to protest against injustices and rights violations.
Kugonza added that these legislative restrictions stop them from reaching out and mobilizing women to end injustices.
She cited the maltreatment like beatings they as rights defenders have had to endure at the hands of security agencies whenever they hold protests. Such treatment, she said is inhumane and degrades the dignity of women.
“The POMA has put restrictions on gatherings and mobilizing our fellow women to sensitize them on human rights issues. When holding any meeting or community awareness activities, the Police comes in and stops you,” Kugonza told reporters.
“Government should understand that the work we are doing is not criminal in nature but only raising awareness for people to demand accountability,” she added.
She explained that the NGO law has restricted women from registering new organizations which are gearing towards facilitating women to fight for their rights.
Pamela Anguwech, another member of the steering committee revealed that the new Network will work to ensure that the freedoms of human rights defenders in Uganda are respected and protected as well as advocating for an enabling environment in which their peers can conduct their work.