Five people are detained by Police in Serere district for presiding over the marriage ceremony of a minor contrary to Ugandan laws.
16-year old Anna Grace Akello, a pupil of Ogangai Primary school in Pingire Sub County was the victim of an arranged marriage sealed by her parents John Ekunyam and Joyce Imelu on December 15, 2014.
The ceremony, at Ekunyam’s home in Omolotok village, was stopped by the police, acting on a tip-off by concerned residents.
Subsequently, Emmanuel Oriokot 21, the would-be husband to the victim, Grace Auma, his mother and Sam Ebau, the father, together with the victim’s parents, all residents of Omolotok village were arrested.
They face two counts of defilement and procuring defilement.
Under Ugandan law, any person who has sexual intercourse with a girl below 18 is guilty of defilement, a capital offense for which death is the maximum sentence. Section 133 of the penal code also sets a five year prison sentence as a penalty for persons involved in aiding defilement.
This stern liability is based on the legal presumption that females under eighteen are neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers, and therefore need to be protected.
It is also assumed that by marrying them off, such children are denied their rights to health, education and opportunity, and robbed of their childhood.
Anthony Jimmy Oyuku, the Serere district Police Commander Cautions parents against forcefully marrying off minors.
Although, Oyuku states that this is the first such case recorded in serere District, The rate of child marriage in Uganda is reported to be standing at 40%, slightly higher than the African average of 39%.
According to the Girls not bride’s crusade, a number of factors contribute to this high rate, including poverty, gender norms and expectations, culture and tradition. In rural areas, parents tend to believe that child marriage offers protection against premarital pregnancy and HIV infection.
The right to ‘free and full’ consent to a marriage is also recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) prohibits child marriage.
Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), governments have committed to ensure the overall protection of children and young people aged under 18, however, child marriage and the range of rights implications it has, substantially infringe these protections.