The Inspector General of Police, Martin Ochola has directed police officers to stop arresting sex workers and gamblers immediately three days after the Constitutional Court nullified the offense of rogue and vagabond in the penal code act.
In his statement delivered by the Police Spokesperson, Fred Enanga, Ochola says that any police officer who will be found arresting any person on any offenses related to rogue and vagabonding that include idle and disorderly, gambling, and prostitution will face the police disciplinary court.
Last week, five justices of the Constitutional Court ruled that the offense of rogue and vagabond was outdated, archaic, and unconstitutional. They also noted that it infringes on the freedom of movement.
The five-member panel of the constitution court justices comprising Fredrick Egonda-Ntende, Elizabeth Musoke, Christopher Madrama, Monica Mugenyi, and Christopher Gashirabake emphasized that rogue and vagabond offense contravenes article 43 of the Constitution of Uganda, which is the supreme law of the land.
“It is hereby held that sections 168(1) (c) and 168(1) d) of the Penal Code Act are void for inconsistency with the constitution,” part of the ruling read. Police have on many occasions been accused of arresting people without clear offenses and often end up charging them with the offense of rogue and vagabond, which included being idle and disorderly.
Najib Kasule, a member of public interest advocates, says that police will now start arresting people for serious crimes instead of apprehending them based on their appearance like wearing torn clothes or having dreadlocks.
“Police used to bundle people on suspicious appearance. You have dreadlocks, and torn clothes, and they arrest you. But because this escape is no longer there, they will stop those malicious arrests. They will start arresting people for serious crimes,” Kasule said.
The constitutional court ruling emanates from the case of Francis Tumwesige Ateenyi v Attorney General, Constitutional Petition No. 36 of 2018. Tumwesige filed the case in 2018 and was supported by Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum -HRAPF insisting that rogue and vagabonds decriminalize poverty and status.
HRAPF over the years argued that rogues and vagabonds were routinely being based on by security forces to apprehend and persecute the poor and marginalized people for instance street vendors, sexual minorities, and sex workers.