By Charles Etukuri
The Police on Monday, August 15, said they had arrested four people in connection with a viral video of a teenage girl being taken for forced marriage in Kyotera district.
Police spokesperson Fred Enanga identified the suspects as Augustine Kigundu and Geoffrey Musiru, who actively participated in the kidnap and was arrested while still dressed in the same jumper he was wearing during the offence.
The other suspects were Sam Tumwine and George Rukumiriza, all residents of Kamuganja “B” LCI in Kyotera district.
“The Directorate of CID in close co-ordination with the Directorate of Operations, Crime Intelligence and Greater Masaka Police, have in custody four suspects, highly linked to the alleged kidnap and trafficking with intent to forcefully marry a 14-year-old girl victim from Kabuta LCI village, Mayanja parish, Kakuuto sub-county, in Kyotera district,” Enanga said.
He explained that the facts gathered indicated that on August 6, 2022, a one Merabu Kobusingye, the paternal aunt of Naome Kansiime alias Ninsiima, visited her sister Keren Kirezi, the 35-year-old mother of the victim at Kabuta village.
“She feigned sickness and wanted the elder daughter of her brother to go and help take care of her, until she recovered. She, however, found the elder daughter had undergone an operation and was sickly. She then switched to the 14-year-old victim. The mother of the victim initially objected, but eventually allowed her to go and help for one week from the 6th – 10th of August, 2022,” Enanga said.
Enanga further said the victim and her aunt set off on a bodaboda, but upon reaching Mukyombe village, located between Kabuta LCI and Kamuganja “B” LCI, the paternal aunt started convincing her to get into marriage, which the victim rejected.
“They found a vehicle parked with occupants and others standing outside, who were known to the victim’s aunt. The group of eight men, grabbed the victim from the bodaboda registration number UFK 215Y and forced her into the waiting Premio car, registration number UBB 256Y driven by Innocent Birungi of Kyotera Town Council.
“The victim was sandwiched between two men in the hind seat, while the paternal aunt sat with the driver in front. The remaining five male suspects followed them on bodabodas, up to the home of Bataringaya in Kamuganja “B” LCI for marriage, to one of the sons,” he stated.
The Police said at the destination, the victim was confined to a bedroom, where she was joined by her aunt.
“She wept for all the days she was confined till August 8, 2022, when she heard the phone conversation, with the husband to her aunt, threatening her with jail.
She, however, continued to counsel her and share tips on marriage. It was on Tuesday, August 9, at around 11:00pm, that the aunt gave up on her, and hired a bodaboda who transported her back to her home.
“The victim has since been transferred to Kampala, where she is getting counselling for the trauma she went through and better management; including plans of returning to school,” Enanga said.
He said the Police strongly condemned the act of forceful child marriage.
“It is a harmful traditional and cultural practice, which violates the rights of the girl-child. The incident that was captured on video, shows that the practice still exists yet it has devastating physical and psychological effects on young girls. The practice puts girls at risk of rape on their forced wedding nights, endangers them with infectious diseases, and draws them into premature motherhood, with added pressure to bear children and nature them. In extreme cases, it leads to depression, loneliness and even suicide,” Enanga noted.
He said because culture is a phenomenon which is deeply embedded in communities, it calls for initiatives that can help change the mentality of parents and guardians, who do not see the harmful repercussions of child marriage and advantage of keeping children in school, through education, mobilisation and usage of existing laws.
“Educated girls and women have more inner strength, which helps them understand their value, preserve their innocence, freedom of choice and knowledge about their rights, which should not be affected by traditional social norms,” Enanga said.
He urged the public to totally reject as illegal, the practice of child marriage in communities.
“We also call upon young girls to be more courageous and speak out against their families and other culprits who glorify child marriages,” the Police spokesperson added.