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Collusion Among Parents, Sexual Offenders Fueling Child Marriages in Lyantonde

Andrew Timothy Kamugasha, the Lyantonde District Probation Officer, says that they are faced with a heavy burden of stopping the vice and blames it on communities that are reluctant to fully support efforts aimed at reversing the trend.

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The persistent collusion between parents and child sex offenders is being blamed for the increasing number of child marriages and teenage pregnancies in Lyantonde district.   

The district is grappling with the social burden of sexual abuse characterized by the marriage of underage girls and defilement with the connivance of their parents. 

Andrew Timothy Kamugasha, the Lyantonde District Probation Officer, says that they are faced with a heavy burden of stopping the vice and blames it on communities that are reluctant to fully support efforts aimed at reversing the trend. 

In the last three weeks, Lyantonde has registered 21 cases of minors who were willfully married off by their parents and 28 cases of teenage pregnancies, according to reports from the District probation department.  The report indicates that victims are as young as thirteen years of age and are taken away under the cultural practice of bridal kidnap.

Kamugasha says the problem has worsened during the extended lockdown induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the closure of schools rendering children susceptible to abuse.

According to Kamugasha, the cases are rampant in the rural sub counties of Lyakajura, Kashagama and Kinuuka that are largely occupied by multicultural communities, some of which still tolerate ancient traditional practices that include among others bridal kidnap.

Kamugasha says despite the availability of by-laws to fight the problem, the lockdown has come with extraordinary challenges fueling the problem. He explains that effective enforcement of the law through apprehending and prosecution of culprits is being frustrated by the community’s reluctance and parents of the victims who still accept the social vice and concealing it under the guise of lack of sustainable alternatives.    

//Cue in: (Luganda) “abasinze bavudde kati…. 


 

Cue out: ……omutindo omutuufu.”// 

 

Kamugasha indicates their official records only capture a few cases involving security raids on marriage ceremonies or when girls seek antenatal care services at health centers. But Herbert Bakenga, the Lyantonde District Education Officer, says that they instructed teachers to vigorously support the enforcement teams by being on the lookout and report to authorities all forms of sexual abuse in the area as a way of safeguarding young girls.

He is worried that hundreds of girls may not return to school after the lockdown as a result of teenage marriages and parenting.  Fred Muhangi, the Lyantonde District LC V Chairperson, says that faced with the growing problem, their executive also tasked local leaders at levels to join police in fighting the problem in their areas. 

The 2020 Police Crime Report indicates that Lyantonde district registered 71 sex-related offenses against children, the second-highest figure in the greater Masaka policing sub-region after Rakai district.      

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