By Cecilia Okoth
Four out of 10 boys who dropped out of school in Kyotera district are involved in sexual relationships with older women, some nearly thrice their age.
The teenage boys, mostly aged 17, are allegedly lured into sex by women as old as 45 years in exchange for money and goodies such as smartphones and motorcycles.
This was revealed by child rights activists during a dissemination workshop held at Golf Course Hotel in Kampala on Tuesday (July 13).
The activist groups include Uganda Child Rights NGO Network, Law Development Centre Legal Aid Clinic, FIDA Uganda, Free Child Uganda and Child Aid.
A consortium of child rights activities dubbed the ‘Rights and Justice Activity’ undertook a project on enhancing access to justice for children in Uganda with a special focus on Kyotera district.
Kyotera, previously carved out of Rakai district, was selected because it is a transit route to Tanzania through Mutukula, an epicentre for commercial sex and a high prevalence of HIV, according to Lauben Tushemereirwe, the executive director of Child Aid Uganda.
Kyotera also has a high number of street-connected children, teenage pregnancies, and other sexually transmitted infections.
Tushemereirwe said during the implementation of their legal awareness activities with village health teams, social workers and vice-chairpersons of local councils, it emerged that older women were allegedly ‘marrying’ younger boys who had dropped out of school.
The scenarios were mostly registered in Bugaju village, Kirumba sub-county.
This, he added, was exacerbated by the COVID-19 lockdown that rendered children idle, pushing them into seeking employment in places such as bars.
“This information was also corroborated by children we interviewed in schools, who said whereas they are studying, they are sometimes seduced by sugar mummies in exchange for scholastic materials,” Tushemereirwe said.
Caroline Bankusha, a child protection consultant working with Uganda Child Rights NGO Network, said the drivers for boys engaging in sex with older women include household poverty, poor parenting, absence of parents in homes, high illiteracy levels and the need for quick cash and goodies.
In most cases, she said the relationships are not arranged, but rather agreed upon after the boys have been lured with money and gifts.
Speaking about Bugisu region from where he hails, Patrick Sambaga, the country director of Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation, said once a boy goes through the rite of circumcision, the next thing on their agenda is getting married.
“When you meet a young man of 22 years, who got married at 16, has three wives and 14 children; you only imagine the quality of life the children have and how they have been parented,” Sambaga said, adding that this alone creates a spiral of poverty and lack of parenting across generations.
Rose Aaca, a senior probation and welfare officer at the gender ministry, said some of the rape cases registered in remand homes involved boys being lured by older women into sexual relationships.
“In the Karimojong culture, for a boy to qualify to marry a girl, you must first fight and abduct the girl. If the girl is taken into a family that is not pleasant, her parents will accuse the boy of aggravated trafficking and these are some of the cases we are dealing with in remand homes,” Aaca said.
The activists have since tasked the Government with carrying out a comprehensive study on the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown on the boy child to curb what they described as a “looming crisis”.