Contagious Diseases Acts, Uganda.

Oral Answers to Questions — Unemployment. – in the House of Commons on 22nd March 1922.

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Photo of Mr Augustine Hailwood Mr Augustine Hailwood , Manchester Ardwick


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if his attention has been drawn to the Contagious Diseases Acts now operating in Uganda, which compel chiefs, none of whom has had a medical examination, to report to the authorities anyone of whom he has reasonable suspicion that he or she has venereal disease; is he aware that numbers of men and women are obliged by British Government officials, and native chiefs acting under their orders, to come up at intervals for a particular form of medical inspection, and that the Colonial Office induces white women, both doctors and nurses, to leave England, where Contagious Diseases Acts are not law, to carry out measures of a similar nature in a British Protectorate, and this without pointing out to them the element of compulsion in the work they are expected to do; and will he take steps to put an end to these objectionable practices?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Dundee

There is no analogy between the Contagious Diseases Acts formerly in force in this country, which were directed to the compulsory examination of prostitutes, and the measures which have been in force in Uganda since 1913 for preserving a population ravaged by venereal disease. The questions whether the procedure in Uganda can be improved in detail, and whether special reference to prostitutes can be deleted from the legislation without relieving that class from the liability to examination which is considered essential in the case of the general population, will be referred to the Governor. But I am satisfied, as was Lord Harcourt in 1913, of the necessity of drastic action in dealing with the matter. The main legislation on the subject is a native law of the Kingdom of Buganda, passed by and at the instance of the native Government, and the administration of the law is a matter for the native chiefs and not for British officials, though the Government medical officers give their services in examining the suspected cases sent to them by the chiefs. Corresponding legislation exists to cover the case of those not subject to the native law. There has been no complaint from the medical staff as to the execution of these measures except from a woman doctor who was selected for employment in Uganda because of her special knowledge of venereal diseases. Her protest appears to be attributable in part to her conclusion, as a result of her five months' experience, that not more than 5 per cent. of the persons she examined were infected, a view which is not shared by medical men, official and missionary, of many years' standing. It is a fact that her attention had not been drawn before her selection to the special measures regarding venereal disease. They were communicated to her very shortly after her arrival, and it appears that she took part in many examinations before making any complaint. Care is now taken to bring these measures to the notice of any persons engaged primarily for the duty of carrying them into effect.

Photo of Mr Athelstan Rendall Mr Athelstan Rendall , Thornbury

Is that woman doctor now in the employ of the Government?