The Commissioner General of the Uganda Prisons Service, Mr. Johnson Byabashaija, has expressed alarm over the rising number of female inmates throughout the country.
Mr. Byabashaija highlighted that in the past decade, there has been a 125 percent increase in the number of female inmates, with the figure growing from 1,591 in 2013 to the current 3,585 inmates.
Of the 3,585 female inmates, about 39 percent face charges related to murder, while 15 percent are accused of offenses like housebreaking, theft, child trafficking, and assault, among others.
Approximately three percent are charged with aggravated robbery, and the remainder face various other charges.
Additionally, two of the female inmates are on death row, around 10 are serving life sentences, and others are in pre-trial detention.
Mr. Byabashaija expressed these concerns during the launch of a three-day regional conference in Kampala, focused on the right to justice for affected women.
The conference theme is “Unlocking barriers: Rights of women in the criminal justice systems in Africa.”
The Commissioner General emphasized the issue of prison overcrowding, which has led to the spread of diseases like Tuberculosis and Hepatitis B among the inmates.
He stated that there is a policy in place to provide beds for all female inmates, as they are seen as mothers of the nation, and they require adequate space to accommodate both themselves and their children.
Mr. Byabashaija further noted that there are currently 268 children incarcerated alongside their mothers.
He suggested that while these women are offenders, the judicial system should consider them as mothers of the nation and treat them differently.
Jane Frances Abodo, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), attributed the surge in female inmates to factors like poverty, increased cases of domestic violence, gender-based violence, and ignorance.
She pointed out that many of the female inmates are facing murder charges, which often result from prolonged exposure to violence.
Abodo stressed the need for sensitization and prevention efforts to address the root causes rather than just addressing the aftermath.
Simeo Nsubuga, a commissioner at the Uganda Human Rights Commission, raised concerns about human rights violations in some prisons, particularly related to the inadequate provision of bedding for female inmates.
He emphasized that female inmates are entitled to proper accommodations, which should be ensured across all prisons.