Kwania– Four people, including a 16-year-old Primary Six girl, have been arrested in Kwania District for allegedly taking part in child marriage.
The suspects, who are being detained at Kwania Central Police Station, were arrested during a giveaway ceremony on Monday after a tip off from concerned citizens.
They include the child, her grandparents and the bridegroom. The girl’s grandparents are residents of Baradu Village, Aninolal Parish in Inomo Sub-county while the groom is a resident of Akot Village, Alira Parish in Aduku Sub-county.
Meanwhile, the three cows that had been brought as dowry were also impounded and taken to Kwania Central Police Station as exhibit.
Police told Daily Monitor yesterday that the victim is being held to help with investigations and that they are hunting a man who allegedly mediated the marriage.
Ms Edith Basalirwa, the Kwania District police commander, said their preliminary investigations reveal that the suspects reportedly took advantage of the absence of the girls’ father and chased away her mother before later forcing the girl into marriage. It is reported the girl’s father was jailed in March 2020.
Police said they have preferred charges of procuring defilement against the girl’s grandparents and defilement against her would-be-husband.
Ms Basalirwa advised parents to always protect their children from such acts.
“We must protect our children during this time of school closure. We should not look at our daughters as a source of income. Let us break the cultural norms and protect the girl child because they are the future leaders,” she said.
Mr Salim Komakech, the area Resident District Commissioner (RDC), expressed displeasure with parents who are intentionally killing the future of their daughters. “I’m sending a strong warning to those who think that three cows are worth the future of their daughters that we shall come for them,” Mr Komakech said.
He added: “We will not compromise on that and the public should give us information whenever such a thing is happening so that we deal with the perpetrators.”
In spite of the abuse and deprivation, many girls suffer as a result of forced early marriage, the practice continues to be alarmingly common.
According to UNICEF, more than 60 million women age 20-24 are married before they turned 18.
In Uganda, 10 per cent of girls are married before 15 years and 40 per cent are married by the age of 18. Uganda is ranked 18th worldwide with regard to child marriage (UNICEF, 2016 statistics).
Justified as an accepted norm with social and financial benefits, child marriage has little or no benefit for the young girls themselves, who are more vulnerable to domestic violence, more likely to be uneducated, at greater risk of contracting HIV/Aids, and more likely to bear children before they are physically ready.
However, many countries had made progress against such traditional and transactional marriages of girls in recent decades, but Covid-19’s economic havoc has caused significant backsliding.
The United Nations estimates that hardships resulting from Covid-19 will drive 13 million more girls to marry before the age of 18.
Though most such marriages take place in secret, Save the Children estimates that this year alone, nearly half a million more girls under 18 are at risk of being married off worldwide, most in Africa and Asia, but also in the Middle East.