By Charles Etukuri
Activists have raised concern about the increased number of sugar mummies and boy-child marriages in the country.
The activists through their #Endchildgrooms campaign called for the strengthening of policies and laws that prohibit the facilitation and solemnisation of child marriages in regard to the boy-child.
They noted that as a coalition of Civil Societies Organizations advocating for children’s rights, they believe that child marriages violate boy-child rights to be protected from exploitation, compromises their right to health and education and undermines their best interest.
In a statement released on Tuesday July 12, 2022, The Rights and Justice Activity (RAJA)-Child Justice Group under the lead of Uganda Child Rights NGO network, together with the Law Development Center Legal Aid Clinic, FIDA Uganda, Free Child Uganda, Child Aid Uganda added their voice and support to the end of child marriages in Uganda.
On the question of adolescent boys, the activists noted that they usually end up in low paying complex jobs.
“After working a couple of months without realising financial freedom, peer influence leads them to look out for quick and easy, money, predisposing them to the vice of boy marriages perpetrated by the sugar mummies who seduce the boys during ceremonies, bars and nightclubs to achieve sexual satisfaction in return for instant presents, gifts and quick cash for sexual services rendered.”
The statement noted that there is minimal information to the date on child marriage among boys.
“And yet in some countries with data over the last 10 years on average, 4.5% of young men aged 20-24 years were first married of in union before the age of 18! Under the UN Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC), State Parties, including Uganda must ensure the protection of children, particularly in the areas of health and safety, and have children’s best interest as the primary consideration in all actions concerning them. State parties are also mandated to protect children from physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation and sexual abuse”.
They noted that child marriages persist in some Uganda communities even though the Uganda Constitution set the minimum legal age of marriage at 18 years old.
“It is a form of violence against children wherein boy’s health and development are disrupted when they are forced to drop out of school and exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. The act is being practiced in some parts of the country primarily due to poverty and unemployment among the youth.
“According to the National Population and Housing Census, where there are early marriages for females, it is also early for males for example in Otuke, Buyende, Namayingo, Mayuge, Buvuma, Kalangala, Kyegegwa, Kibaale, Kakumiro, Buliisa, Nwoya and Oyam,” the statement said.
They further called on the Government to strengthen the implementation of the existing laws and policies that prohibit child marriage and take necessary actions to address the situation that lead to its continued practice.
“We also call on local government units and concerned national agencies to work with tribal leaders and religious to educate communities on child marriages, negative impacts and adopt measures to prevent this.”
They also called for more budget allocations to the concerned Ministries and Agencies to address the emerging issues that give justice to the children whose rights are being violated.
“We call on the duty bearers and other stakeholders to raise awareness of the adverse effects of child marriages on young girls and children in general, especially in time of the Covid-19 pandemic where they are most vulnerable to all forms of abuse and violence.”
The statement of the activists on ending child boy marriage is a departure from previous statement that have been focusing on ending girl child marriages.
A 2019 UNICEF report had indicated that the Uganda is home to five million child brides.
Of these, 1.3 million married before age 15. The report further indicated that Uganda has the sixteenth highest prevalence of child marriage in the world, and tenth highest absolute number of child brides totaling to an estimated four million.
The report further said that current statistics indicate that 34 per cent of women are married before the age of 18 and 7.3% before the age of 15. It was, however, silent the on the issue of the boy child.