Clan leaders officiating over child marriages will be prosecuted, Lugbara cultural institution
todayJuly 22, 2021
By Sharon Angucia
Various stakeholders in Arua district implementing Spotlight initiative a programme which aims at eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls in the district have decried the high number of cases of teenage pregnancies and child marriages.
Statistics on Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Arua district show that 208 cases of rape, 2783 defilement cases, indecent assault 68, 45 cases of death due to domestic violence, teenage pregnancies and child marriages 2,173 cases, emotional violence 2,329 cases, family separation 156 cases, economic violence 1,703 cases and 3,093 cases of child neglect were reported in the period running from January to December last year.
The district Probation and Welfare officer Arua Eguma Stephen reveals that Arivu and Vurra were the Sub Counties leading in the cases of child marriages; attributing it to the night markets in the areas which turn out to be major hotspots perpetuating behaviors that lead to teenage pregnancies and child marriages. Eguma therefore asked the stakeholders to focus on eliminating the hotspots. Meanwhile the district community liaison officer Arua Micah Avubieng says that, “much as the police is doing sensitization and effecting arrests of perpetrators of sexual and Gender Based Violence, we are still finding cultural beliefs standing in the way as some prohibit the victims from reporting these cases to us”.
However the Prime Minister of the Lugbara cultural institution Ismail Tuku says the institution has pronounced itself on the issues of teenage pregnancies and child marriages encouraging girls to first fully mature before getting married. He further warns that any clan leader found officiating the marriage of children will be prosecuted. Tuku has urged the Lugbara girls to abstain from sex outside marriage at all costs.
Ineffective laws pose a big challenge to the fight against violence against women and girls. Laws such as the Penal Code (Amendment) Act 2007, the Domestic Violence Act 2010, the Sexual Offences Bill and the Marriage Bill do not address key aspects of violence against women. None of these laws for instance criminalizes marital rape.
Police also lack the requisite skills and financial support to investigate cases of violence against women. Justice is also frustrated by an inadequate number of critical facilities, like shelters where victims of violence against women and girls can be accommodated and receive counseling and other support before returning home, as well as an absence of specialized courts where it is safe for women to report their cases.
The 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey revealed that up to 22% of women aged 15 to 49 in the country had experienced some form of sexual violence. The report also revealed that annually, 13% of women aged 15 to 49 report experiencing sexual violence. This translates to more than 1 million women exposed to sexual violence every year in Uganda.
To address these vices, the United Nations and the European Union in partnership with the Government of Uganda launched the Spotlight Initiative, a programme that seeks to eliminate all forms of Sexual and Gender Based Violence and other harmful practices. The programme was launched during the March 8, 2020 International Women's Day celebrations in Mbale. The programme builds on ongoing efforts to address the root causes of violence against women and girls.
While officiating at the launch, President Yoweri Museveni described wife battering as a cowardly act and called for the economic empowerment of women as a tool to reduce their vulnerability to violence and harmful practices.
Women rights activists have also called reiterated the call for affirmative action and reservation of 30% of public procurement to women-led businesses. They also called for stern action against rapists and defilers and increasing funding for law enforcement agencies dealing with the vices of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV).