Incidents: Findings show that one in four young adults has experienced sexual violence in their childhood and had their first abuse at the age of 13 or at a much younger age.
Back in 2012, Daily Monitor published a traumatising story of Joan (not real name) narrating how her own father had repeatedly raped her on a number of occasions.
As a result, the young girl sustained injuries to her private parts which oozed blood and pus.
To date, the girl continues to suffer psychological distress from the ordeal.
Joan is among many girls whose stories have been highlighted in the different media platforms as a way of raising awareness about the vice.
Sexual violence encompasses sexual abuse and exploitation of children including forced sex, erotic touches such as grabbing or fondling of the child. Sexual violence also includes harassment, threats and tricks directed towards a child in exchange for sex.
Uganda Violence Against Children survey report findings released on August 2018 show that one in three young women have experienced sexual abuse during their childhood.
Also, one in four young adults who experienced sexual abuse in their childhood had their first abuse experience at 13 or at a much younger age.
Further, the report highlights that most frequent perpetrators of sexual violence against girls during their childhoods were neighbours and strangers. These girls, aged 13 to 17 years, most frequently experienced sexual violence on the road, their own respective homes and school.
Meanwhile, boys aged 13 to 24 years reported friends, classmates, and neighbours as the most frequent perpetrators of sexual violence. They were abused in the evening, and most commonly at school, in their homes, and on the road.
Consequences of sexual violence
Children who suffer sexual abuse get affected in different ways.
They may get mental disorder as a result of recurrent sexual episodes playing in their minds, says Ian Musoke, a child welfare social worker.
“For example, if a girl was raped, there is a likelihood that she will keep thinking of what happened to her, and, in the long run, this may cause her mental agony,” Musoke says.
Rape also comes with the high risk of exposure to HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases including gonorrhea and syphilis. Some girls also get pregnant in the process.
“Sadly, because some of these girls conceive at a time they are still very young, they end up losing their life as well as that of the baby,” Musoke says.
Then, some of these victims may either resort to run away from home or committing suicide out of shame.
Musoke says sometimes these victims can end up detesting men or relationships.
A case in point, Namayanja, now aged 25 years, says she starting hating men after being raped by her uncle at the age of 10 years.
“I don’t like the idea of any man touching me as it always reminds me of my painful past,” Namayanja says.
Although a number of suitors continue to propose marriage, Namayanja continuously says she is not yet ready to settle down. Uganda is a signatory to a number of international instruments including the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), article 19, which requires that children are protected from all forms of violence (including sexual abuse).
However, a Ministry of education and sports report issued in 2014 titled Response, Tracking, Referral, and Response (RTRR), guidelines on violence against children in schools, noted there were existing challenges towards reporting cases of abuse.
These included limited understanding of children’s rights and responsibilities, mismanagement of reported cases of violence among children as well as gaps in the existing laws on violence against children. The RTRR report highlighted that although Uganda has various laws that prohibit abuse, they lack specific provisions on mandatory reporting of cases of abuse against youngsters.
What can be done to avert sexual violence?
Mr Timothy Opodo, the child protection manager at Child Fund International says there is need to empower children especially the girl-child to be able to detect and report cases of sexual abuse.
“They should be able to identify incidents such as inappropriate erotic language directed towards them as well as bad touches and report the culprits to the law enforcement officers,” Opodo says.
In addition, Opodo says there is need for both parents and teachers to empower children with life skills so as that they can grow up to be confident and not shy to speak out any issue.
Since there are still communities with unfair norms targeting the girl-child including early child marriages, Opodo says there is also need to address these issues at hand.