The Status, Rights and Treatment of Persons with Disabilities within Customary Legal Frameworks in Uganda: A Study of Mukono District
Dennison, David Brian
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This thesis addresses the question: How do customary legal frameworks impact the status, rights and treatment of persons with disabilities? It is motivated by two underlying premises. First, customary legal frameworks are highly consequential in Sub-Saharan contexts. Second, human impairments are likely to impact status, rights and treatment in customary legal scenarios. In addition, the reality of deep legal pluralism and an anthropologically versed conception of customary law inform the research design. Customary legal content is rightly discerned by researching its substance and application within the lived environment. The researcher gathered input and stories of 63 persons with disabilities and conducted interviews of 23 community members with a heightened knowledge of cultural matters in order to discern the experiences of persons with disabilities in non-formal legal contexts. In her semi-autonomous social field approach, Sally Falk Moore considers diverse and layered sources of law when determining the normative legal content in lived contexts. However, this research uncovered little in the way of normative principles specially pertaining to persons with disabilities within lived environments. Instead, legally consequential occurrences take place in customary scenarios that are largely autonomous from formal actors and institutions. The perceived normative substance of formal and customary law can influence the outcome of customary scenarios, but the decision makers’ working knowledge of this legal content as it pertains to people with impairments is limited and disparate. Decision-making family, clan and community members take various factors into consideration when determining rights, status and treatment in customary scenarios. Suppositions about the capacity and functionality of persons with disabilities are particularly influential. Thus, human impairments can be consequential factors in these decisions. This thesis demonstrates that customary scenarios are highly significant forums for establishing customary rights and status in the contexts of marital relations, clan leadership, customary guardianship, and customary succession and land rights. Moreover, it indicates that effectual social and legal influences in these scenarios are multi-sourced, multi-layered and dynamic. Finally, the thesis offers practical change strategies suggested by the research for those seeking to improve the status, rights, and treatment of persons with disabilities in Mukono District and similar settings.