Uganda Day 29: We're Not in Canada Anymore

It may be Monday, but work today wasn't so bad. We started in the library, as we always do—it's become our de facto office, since there are usually too many people for us to work upstairs—but we were forced to relocate before long. With no room upstairs and kicked out of the library (for a meeting), we found ourselves in the boardroom for a change. Why they wouldn't hold the meeting in the boardroom remains unclear, but it was actually nice to have a change of scenery. It was also blessedly cool, and the chairs were significantly more plush and comfortable. We stayed there all day, even after the meeting was finished. Even the library feels too crowded sometimes, with all the interns.

The day was also helped along by the fact that we were given a special assignment by our supervisor. Up until now, we've worked exclusively on the pre-trial detention report, which is interesting, but you can only spend so many weeks researching a single issue before it takes on just a hint of tedium.

Today, our task was to review the proposed Sexual Offences Bill, which is currently in the committee stage before Parliament, I think. FHRI is scheduled to give a presentation to the Committee later this week—human rights concerns, recommendations, possible improvements, stuff like that. It wasn't an enormous task, and it was only for today, but it was refreshing to have a break from the other report. And besides which, it was a really interesting exercise...more interesting, for me at least, than researching the report. In a sense, I guess this seemed more tangible, more we had our own small role to play in law-making.

The Bill itself is kind of an odd thing. On the one hand, it's really quite progressive in a lot of ways. For example, it specifically bars evidence of an alleged victim's character or sexual history. On the other hand, it creates a separate offence for "marital sexual assault" with a ridiculously lenient punishment, and it actually widens the scope of criminalized homosexuality. In some ways this Bill is a big step in the right direction, and in other ways it's deeply flawed.

In any event, combing through it and picking it apart was really interesting. It was also difficult, at times, given the legal context from which I've arrived here. My natural impulse is to reject absolutely the proposed death penalty for aggravated rape, for instance, or to condemn the leniency afforded to spouses, or to resist any number of things we'd find repugnant in Canada. But this is not Canada, and while we certainly made note of our ideal changes to the Bill, we also had to accept that these were not realistic solutions here (yet) and try think of possible compromises. The mere act of searching for some so-called 'middle ground' on many of these issues felt unnatural. It was definitely an enlightening experience, for me.

I don't think I'll be in attendance at the presentation, but I hope the Committee takes some of our concerns and suggestions seriously. I'll be so curious to see what this Bill looks like if and when it eventually passes and becomes law. I think we're also supposed to be doing a similar thing for a couple of other proposed Bills, whenever they reach committee, so I'm looking forward to that.

It's Monday, which means it's Game of Thrones night for me. So excited. Oh, and I have a roommate once again...came home to find a lizard in my sink. Unfortunately, I turned away for all of two seconds and I haven't seen him since. It's astonishing how fast they move. Ah well, he'll turn up eventually!

I hope you're all having an excellent Monday!