We need to come up with measures that prohibit harmful practices that undermine the dignity of the girl child.
By Ivy Maloy
Tororo District council has passed a by-law to curb the rising cases of teenage pregnancies and child marriages in the district. The ordinance was passed on June 18 this year and took effect immediately. Offenders now face up to six months in jail or a fine of 20 currency points. The law criminalizes presiding over any child marriage and denying children access to education in the district.
The new law has a provision of safe spaces for children to access sexual reproductive health services, among others. If the law is effectively enforced, this will help improve school retention rate especially among the girls. This ordinance has long been waited for as a step towards fighting the high rate of teenage pregnancies and child marriages which inevitably results to high school dropouts.
Since the first coronavirus induced lockdown was imposed in March last year, about 7,449 girls between the ages of 10 and 19 have conceived, according to statistics obtained from public health facilities. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have been adverse on girls. Uganda recorded a drastic increase in teenage pregnancies and sexual gender-based violence (SGBV). For most of the victims, when found out by the authorities, their parents flee with them to Kenya.
Pregnancy among adolescents is happening as a result of two main aspects: Sexual Violence and adolescence engaging in unprotected sex
The new law will if truly enforced will provide a safe space for children to pursue their dreams. Most of the defiled girls end up being abandoned by their perpetrators but thanks to the new law, they will feel safer and even get another chance to go back to school and lead life like a normal child.
SGBV is one of the factors responsible for increasing teenage pregnancies as some of the girls feel that it is better to get married at a young age to escape the horrors that they face at their homes. During the pandemic, we were all forced to stay home, the pressure of the whole family staying together may have led to domestic violence which may have triggered the child to seek comfort elsewhere and unfortunately, they sought it at the wrong place.
Uganda is set to embark on embark on enforcing the by-law and use other multi-sectoral approaches in order to end child marriages and teenage pregnancies. But the administration will not be able to do it alone, this is a call to everyone to ensure that their community is fighting gender-based violence and are taking care of their teenagers both emotionally and physically.