Tuesday, August 19, 2008


It’s scary child-abuse in Uganda is on the rise
The media last week carried two saddening reports about two children (girls) who were sexually abused and their lives possibly shattered forever. One of the sexual predators is an 80-year-old man who defiled his 15-year-old grand daughter, impregnating her in the process. The other case involved a teenager who demonstrated no remorse at defiling a 5- year-old baby girl.

These men don’t only abuse the young girls to quench their sexual fantasies but they also infect their young victims with the dreaded HIV/ Aids virus . Sexual assault against the girl-child is one of the worst human rights violations against children.

It’s pretty scary that in Uganda, cases of child-molestation are on the rise. In western Uganda, a woman seems to have paid heed to calls by some radical women activists to castrate defilers – when she severed the penis of a man who defiled her daughter. And the situation can only get worse with many cases of child-sexual assault not being reported to authorities. All this happening when the Criminal Penal Code was recently amended by Parliament to strengthen the sections relating to defilement of young girls.

Men who defile girls under the age of 12 and those who infect them with the killer HIV/ Aids virus suffer a mandatory death penalty. International conventions also provide that children should enjoy the benefit of social security to allow them develop in a healthy environment. But Parliament’s efforts to strengthen the criminal penalties for child- defilers seem to have registered no immediate deterring effects.

As a result, the girl-child continues to suffer disproportionately with no help in sight . The situation is also not helped by the fact that in some cases, parents encourage the beastly abuse of their own children for monetary considerations. Many defilement cases are never reported to the authorities because either the relatives of the abused child have wantonly pocketed a few hundred bucks, or they simply don’t want to ‘annoy’ the domineering male folks. And the abused children suffer quietly for the rest of their lives.

Much as the law can have it’s place in the scheme of things, especially if we have a strong enforcement mechanism, we can’t keep reinventing the wheel either. In a situation where you have parents abusing their own children while others are covering up the crime, the problem ceases to be a family matter. The implications of this slippage in our traditional and social norms, extend far beyond the family unit. It becomes a community/society issue.

But do Ugandans still have the moral high ground to say no to child-molesters! With the advent of the global media and the Internet - our traditional moral values are being eroded at a fast and alarming rate. The extended family which used to help in fostering good values among the young and protect them from abuse, is no more.

We are no-longer each other’s ‘policeman’. Everyone is for themselves and God for us all! But for the sake of the young abused girls – we can surely do something. For instance, it’s not difficult to detect a child who is suffering abuse. They normally develop a range of anti-social and self-destructive behaviours and thoughts, by trying to cope with the abuse as well as trying to understand the situation and why the abuse is happening.

Simply enacting strong laws when we don’t have the will to enforce them, let alone to have the culprits answer for their criminal/ grisly acts, will not be of any help to reverse the male hostility against the girl- child. Children’s rights cannot be perceived as an option - as a question of favour or kindness to children. Children’s rights generate obligations and responsibilities that must be honoured.

Mr Sserwanga is a journalist and advocate

No comments: