Religious leaders in Teso sub-region have blamed the high rates of child marriages in the region on traditional marriage ceremonies which they argue entice underage girls to want to copy those that are married off in traditional ceremony.
Rev. Sam Ediau, the education coordinator of Church of Uganda Soroti diocese expressed concern that parents have made it a habit to ‘subject’ adolescent girls to ‘being attractive centre pieces’ while at traditional marriage ceremonies. Rev. Eduau says that the practice of actively involving girls in such marriage ceremonies puts them in the mood for marriage. He wants girls discouraged from taking part in such ceremonies.
“It’s now becoming a routine that during introduction ceremonies you have seven year-olds, because they want biscuits, sweets, you find them dancing in a funny way. I don’t know what we are going to do about it,” Rev. Ediau said.
Rev. Ediau says that due to the early marriages, Teso region is experiencing worrying levels of school drop outs arising from child pregnancies.
According to Amos Oluka, the Senior Probation Officer for district, 80 percent of young girls in the district start families before making 18 years. He also blames the desire among parents to obtain bride price as a key motivating factor.
“Whereas early marriages are seemingly rampant in the rural areas, there are very many aspects that have pushed these girls to early marriages such as cultural tendencies,” Oluka told Sunrise.
Children at a traditional marriage ceremony
Other sources, including studies however attribute the high rates of child marriages not on traditional ceremonies but rather on poverty, sexual abuse that forces parents to force the offenders to marry off their daughters.
Florence Atim, the in charge child-family and protection Unit Soroti remaked for example that most early marriages have resulted from cases of defilement in the district.
“The poverty situation coupled with rude utterances from parents, and peer groups among others have largely caused girls to leave home for early marriage,” Atim explained.
According to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) 2016; 25 per cent of adolescents aged 15-19 have begun childbearing and 19 per cent of women aged 15-19 have given birth.
According to the website, girlsnotbrides.org, nearly 1 out of every 2 girls below 18 years in Uganda gets married before making 18 years. Uganda has the highest level of teenage pregnancies in Africa. Nearly 1 in every 2 girls in Uganda is married before the age of 18. Poverty, traditional and social norms, insecurity that causes displacement as key drivers of child marriages.
“Many parents marry their daughters in the hope of securing their financial security.
Bride price can also be a motivation for parents: a younger bride means a higher bride price for the family.”
The government launched the National Strategy to end Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy On June 16, 2015 during celebrations to mark the Day of the African Child.