Legislators have expressed mixed reactions on a recommendation by the Committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development urging government to build more remand homes.
According to a report presented to Parliament on Thursday, 05 October 2023 by the Committee Chairperson, Hon. Flavia Kabahenda, there is need to set up more remand homes and expand the existing ones due to population increase.
She said that with the exception of Ihungu Remand Home in Masindi and Kapiringisa National Rehabilitation Centre, the other six across the country are overcrowded.
“Overcrowding in homes creates practical challenges such as infringing on the right to privacy, and makes access to basic necessities like soap and sanitary towels difficult,” said Kabahenda.
Hon. Nelsa Avako (NRM, Yumbe District Woman Representative) supported the proposal saying that having more remand homes will assure affected parents of adequate care for their children.
“Our children are precious to us and when they conflict with the law, the best place to protect them for rehabilitation is a remand home. I support the recommendation that government should build more remand homes across the country,” Avako said.
Moroto District Woman MP, Hon. Stella Atyang said that much as government has planned to extend remand homes at sub-regional level, some have not been fully established.
“Moroto District was given a remand home whose construction started in 2020 and was supposed to be completed in 2022. But up to date, it has stalled and I wonder when it will be completed,” said Atyang.
Hon. Barnabas Tinkasiimire (NRM, Buyaga West County) said that besides planning to build more remand homes, government should establish measures to transfer children in conflict with the law from areas that do not have remand homes.
A section of legislators, however, challenged the proposal.
Hon. Denis Oguzu Lee tasked the Ministry of Gender to investigate what drives children to conflict with the law and invest in transforming them into good members of society.
“When you move on the streets of Kampala, you see a lot of street kids and these are people who end up being criminals. What are we doing to transform such children?” Oguzu Lee wondered.
Agago County MP, Hon. David Lagen emphasised the need to concretize traditional institutions like the family rather than building remand homes.
“Some of these children come back from remand homes when they are not transformed. The Ministry of Gender must focus on strengthening the traditional structure for these children to be rehabilitated effectively,” said Lagen.
The Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, Hon. Betty Amongi said integrating children back into the community should be prioritized over building more remand homes.
“We should not take the route of expanding the number of these institutions. In most of the remand homes, you will find less than 200 children. The best mechanism is to get them back to their families,” Amongi said.
The committee also made recommendations on budgeting for education services in all remand homes, improving the legal and policy framework for juvenile justice in Uganda and increasing the budget for food and other supplies.
Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa
The Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa directed that the recommendations be disseminated to relevant MDAs for action, and tasked the minister to present an action taken report to the House within three months.