By Charles Etukuri
Detectives probing the forceful marriage of a 15-year-old Senior Two student in Kyotera district have transferred her to Kampala together with key suspects arrested as architects of the act, her mother and aunt.
On Friday (August 13) morning, the victim was driven to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) in Kibuli, where she talked with the director, Maj. Tom Magambo, and the state minister for gender and culture, Peace Mutuuzo.
A journalists’ address scheduled to take place in Kibuli by the minister was cancelled after the CID director and Mutuuzo disagreed on how the matter should be handled.
Magambo said CID should be left to do its work and the girl be protected from exposure through the media, sources who spoke to New Vision said.
A detective privy to the investigations told New Vision that the mother forced the girl into marriage due to hard economic conditions at home.
“She has said she had no money to cater for the girl’s education and that is why she negotiated with a man to marry her off,” the source said.
Detectives have since established that the mother and aunt had not informed the girl of the planned marriage.
“We have since learnt that they put her on the motorcycle and told her they were going to visit a relative, but had already planned with the abductors on where they would meet them so that they take her off the bike,” the source added.
A detective who spoke to New Vision said the young girl had been transferred to Kampala for her safety and was still in the Police’s hands as arrangements were being made with the necessary government agencies, including the gender ministry, to find her a suitable home.
The 15-year-old girl, who was captured in a viral video being pushed into a car in a suspected forced marriage, was rescued from the home of a 50-year-old man fit to be her grandfather last weekend.
Magambo, in an earlier statement, said the girl was a student and had lost her father years ago. She was under the care of her uncle who married her mother.
“Her aunt and mother were both involved in the act of marrying her off to 50-year-old Abel Arinaitwe. Luckily, by the time officers came to her rescue, she had not been sexually harassed because the aunt was still around talking her into accepting the marriage,” he said.
Greater Masaka regional Police commander Paul Nkore said they had intensified the hunt for the men seen in the video grabbing the girl from a motorcycle on which she and her aunt were seated, before speeding off with her in a waiting car.
New Vision has learnt that Arinaitwe was a prominent businessman in the Mukabuta-Kibaati area of Kyotera district.
The girl was rescued following Magambo’s directive for an immediate probe into the matter.
The probe was ordered following a public uproar over the incident.
“I have tasked a team with investigating and based on their findings, we shall take action within the legal framework,” Magambo said on Wednesday via a tweet.
Forced marriages still prevalent
Cases of girls being abducted for marriage are not new in Uganda, especially in Karamoja, western and eastern Uganda.
However, the practice has since been termed archaic.
According to the Police, cases of forced marriages are prevalent among cattle-rearing tribes, where many of the victims are married off without their consent in exchange for cattle; it is viewed as part of their culture.
Agriculture minister Frank Tumwebaze condemned the culture called okukyiriza, which is a common practice where a girl is dragged away into marriage against her will in the western region.
Tumwebaze said okukyiriza is an act of kidnap that all leaders should fight against.
“All leaders in society must fight this repugnant and criminal practice of forced marriages. Stop selling our girls,” he said in a tweet.
According to the 2021 annual Police crime report, forced child marriages were classified under trafficking in persons, where 1,149 persons were trafficked in 2021 compared to 666 victims recorded in 2020.
Forced marriages rose from seven cases reported in 2020 to 33 cases last year.
Article 31 of the Constitution, which provides for, among others, the rights of the family, says one can only start a family when they aged 18 and above.
The same Article also says marriage shall be entered into with the consent of the man and woman intending to marry.