(not real names) is currently a resident at Wakisa Ministries, an abuse and pregnancy crisis centre in Wakiso
A herdsman lured the
teenager into sex last year after introducing her to pornography. She explains that she would watch pornography
with the herdsman whenever her aunt was away and re-enact the action later.
Luganda//Cue in; “Nandaga
Cue out…ofuna olubuto”//
Ritah is a victim of the prolonged school closure, which forced learners
to online learning. In an attempt to keep their children busy, parents were
forced to provide them with gadgets such as phones, tabs, laptops and television to
However, this exposed the learners to pornography, which is easily accessible on different platforms. The
opening of some sectors, which allowed parents to return to work and leave the
learners unattended too didn’t help the situation.
Officials from Wakisa ministries say Ritah
is not alone. Jane Kansiime, a counsellor at Wakisa, says that they are seeing an increase in the number of girls
in a similar
situation. "Previously, most of our cases were as a
result of abuse that begun as a result of a friendship. Now, especially during
this lockdown period, we are seeing cases like this where pornographic videos or
involved," she said.
Joyce Namukasa Makanga, a mother and resident of Ndeeba in
Kampala, says that
she was recently shocked to find some pornographic content
stored on the smartphones of her primary school children. “You
cannot believe what our children are watching online. They are watching
unspeakable and mature content,” Namukasa said blaming the problem on online learning, which has forced parents to give the children
access to smartphones and other gadgets.
“Previously, we could not allow them to handle
phones for this very reason but now, this pandemic has broken that rule. We buy their data for online lessons but we
are not available to monitor what they use these phones,” she argued.
Luganda//Cue in; “Banange ngaffe abazadde…
Cue out…baana bato.”//
Henry Kiwanuka, another parent says that
while online classes help, they need constant supervision.
"Before I rarely followed up on what was
happening. I would set up the class and go to another room in the house to also
work. But by going through the search history, I discovered my children would
leave the class and go to Google and start looking for music videos, what was
happening in Big Brother Nigeria, how to make love, what is sex and so
on," he said.
Following this discovery, Kiwanuka says that he resorted to supervising his children's
lessons. Instead of being away while they learn, they now all sit at the same
table where he keeps a close watch. But
not all parents are fortunate like Kiwanuka to be able to work from home.
Many are forced to report to work every day. And while they
are at work, they depend on technology to enable continued learning... Similar observations on how the hyped e-learning
is exposing children to porn online on the internet while stationed in front of
screens for hours have been made by probation officers who keep constant
interactions with children and parents.
Fortunate Abaho, the Kiruhura District Senior
Probation Officer, says the vice is spreading
very fast. She says that besides voluntary access to
porn, there are online abusers who at times use digital platforms to influence and later
sexually harass children.
//Cue in; “There are issues…
Cue out…vigilant as parents.”//
Before, the lockdown a 2019 mini-survey, conducted by the
Pornography Control Committee in 36 secondary schools in Kampala, Wakiso, Gulu,
Adjumani and Mukono districts established that many learners were being been exposed to
pornographic content and material while at home, majorly through Televisions and movies.
Looking at the survey, Kansiime, says that the challenge has been fuelled by the prolonged stay of children at home because of the unprecedented holiday of
close to 18 months, which
has come with unlimited access to the internet.
“Since this internet is unregulated, and many parents don’t
know how these things work. children are out there exploring the internet and
when they land on this pornographic material they don’t want to stop watching
since this is
one of the subjects that we had limited them from knowing,” she says.
With a personal account, Kansiime further argues
that children are also being exposed to pornographic material by both local and
international television stations that don’t censor what they are putting out to
//Cue in; “And we don’t…
Cue out…control that.”//
Over the weekend, many parents took to social media after observing a sort of strip
dance airing on one of the
local stations during day hours. Kansiime
says that many children who have been exposed to pornography have ended up
trying out what they have watched thus increasing incest in families and child
to child sex in communities.
//Cue in; “Exposure to pornography…
Cue out…they are young.”//
Although Uganda lacks data on child access to pornographic materials online, data shared by
some online porn companies show that the average age of first exposure to
pornography during the lockdown is 11-years.
As children spend more time online during the lockdown,
international agencies like Europol, the United Nations and End Child
Prostitution and Trafficking-ECPAT have reported that paedophiles and child
pornography addicts have also increased activity to target children online to
‘groom’ them through
befriending them on social media, building an emotional connection and luring
them to perform sexual activities through photos and videos.