How Uganda came to have the laws it has today

Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa whose diverse landscape encompasses the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains and immense Lake Victoria. Its abundant wildlife includes chimpanzees as well as rare birds. Remote Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a renowned mountain gorilla sanctuary. Murchison Falls National Park in the northwest is known for its 43m-tall waterfall and wildlife such as hippos.

Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior.

Uganda’s laws have changed over time but most significantly during the colonial period.

Before the colonial period, Uganda was made up of smaller communities i.e. kingdoms and chiefdoms and these mainly practiced customary law which varied by Community.

When Uganda became a British colony, the colonial government brought an umber of laws to be used to govern the country. The first set of laws were brought from other colonies e.g. India and these mainly applied until 1902 in what came to be known as the 1902 Order in Council which formally allowed for the colonial laws to apply to Uganda.

Again, further changes came about in 1920 when the 1920 Order in Council was introduced. One important addition from the 1920 Order was the establishment of a Legislative Body, which eventually became what is Parliament today. However, back then, its membership was only made up of Europeans.

This went on until independence in 1962, when many of these laws were “localized e.g. laws that said the Queen was Head of State were replaced with the President as head of state.

In 1962, Uganda also got its first Constitution and the Constitutions have evolved to include the 1966 and 1967 and 1995 Constitutions.

However, many of the laws we have in Uganda today are merely revisions of the laws that were brought in during colonial times. E.g. the Divorce Act is from 1904, Penal Code Act is from 1950 etc. with the addition of new laws e.g. the Land Act of 1998, Computer Misuse Act of 2011.

In addition, Customs were also allowed to be practiced as long as they do not go against the Constitution. This is why we still have Customary marriages, Customary Inheritance, Customary systems of land ownership etc. while Customs like Female Genital Mutilation are illegal.

Finally, because of this shared colonial past, Ugandan laws are still similar to the laws in the United Kingdom, India, Seychelles, Kenya, Tanzania and other former colonies.

Uganda and India have similar laws as a result of our Colonial past. In fact, many of our laws, including the Penal Code Act were borrowed from India.

The definition of Rape in Uganda is similar to the definition of rape in India and is defined as having sexual intercourse with a woman without her permission (consent) or where she gave permission but the permission was obtained by tricks.

Court in India have touched on this issue of Consent and said that when a woman is drunk, she is not in her right senses and so not capable of giving consent (permission) to the sexual intercourse, which could mean such a sexual encounter might amount to Rape.

What do you guys think, should Uganda also follow such an interpretation?




Joseph Semuju leads the programming team at Crossroads Digital Multimedia Limited. He is a native Ugandan and has worked for the Crossroads Digital Multimedia Limited as a 3D Computer Animator for the last two years. He received a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with a second class – upper division from Makerere University. Joseph is someone who is constantly on a mission to keep things running smooth, fast, and in a more automated fashion. No tech question scares him; if he does not know the answer, he takes time to find it. He is detail oriented, thrive on efficiency, and ready to impact a positive change in Africa and the rest of the world through research, writing, and active citizenship.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: