Child marriages: Busia moves to ban disco matanga

Aug 20, 2023

Disco matanga is a night dance funeral used at fundraisings for mainly not well-to-do bereaved families and had been greatly embraced by districts in neighbouring Kenya.

Youths being empowered in Buyanga sub-county. Photo by Egessa Hajusu

Egessa Hajusu
Journalist @New Vision

Busia district has moved to ban disco matanga following outrageous behaviour resulting in alarming cases of teenage pregnancies and early marriages.

Grassroots consultations have started despite opposition from a section of residents who had turned the practice into a business by being hired as emcees.

A report on the vice has been submitted to Eastern Africa Sub Region Support Initiatives for Advancement of Women (EASSI), Action for Health and Reproduction Health Uganda, supporting the district to pass an ordinance to ban disco matanga.

This is the second child protection instrument Busia is attempting to pass in five years, after the Solicitor General delaying to clear the first ordnance, leaving authorities with no option, but to make another bylaw to combat rampant issues of child abuse.

Disco matanga is a night dance funeral used at fundraisings for mainly not well-to-do bereaved families and had been greatly embraced by districts in neighbouring Kenya.

All sorts of people including pupils and students escape from their homes to go and engage in immoral acts and wickedness. The vice has since been abolished in Kenya where it originated from.

The district security committee headed by RDC Michael Kibwika has tried but failed to enforce a ban on disco matanga following the non-compliance of some sub-county and village chairpersons.

Recently, East African affairs minister Rebecca Kadaga appealed to leaders in Busia and the neighbouring districts to abolish disco matanga after residents petitioned her saying it has killed the children's future.

Teenagers attending antenatal care

According to the district health information management system, a total of 1,143 teenage girls aged 15-19 attended antenatal care in public health facilities in the third quarter of the last financial year.

Authorities in the area believe the number could be bigger as most cases early marriages are covered up and some teenage deliveries are not registered as they are being conducted by traditional birth attendants in villages.

95% of teenage pregnant girls end up in early marriages after being chased at home, according to Okumu Semu, the district community development officer in Busia.

These are particularly girls who have dropped out of primary and secondary schools and are highly exposed to risks of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases.

UNICEF reported in 2021 that teenage pregnancy contributed to 28% of maternal deaths and 20% of infant deaths.

Okumu says early marriages have negatively affected the economic development of Busia as all teenagers starting families are unemployed, depending on their parents who are also poor.

Uneducated and unexposed mothers

The district, he says is grappling with uneducated and unexposed mothers, not capable of even administering treatment to their babies, which has significantly resulted in increased cases of malnutrition.

"Many cases of boys have clashed or attempted to kill their parents who prevent them from selling family land to buy boda boda in an effort of trying and fend for their families," says Okumu.

Cases of gender-based violence have also increased, resulting in broken families as the girls quit their marriages and run to Nairobi to work as maids and some have ended up being trafficked to Arab countries where they have died from.

Most cases of early marriages are reported in fishing, gold mining, marijuana growing and areas along Busia-Jinja Highway where truck drivers mostly park and lure them into sex.

Busitema (84), Buyanga (105), Buteba, Masafu (138) Buteba (68) Lumino(72), Lunyo (72) sub counties and western division (186) reported more cases.

Drivers of teenage pregnancies

Other drivers, according to Paul Ouma, a member of the child protection committee, include poverty, poor parenting, moral decay, exposure to uncensored information technology (IT), peer groups, influence and disco matanga.

Busia district Police commander Didas Byaruhanga says 1-10 cases of defilement are registered daily at Busia Police Station.

He says police get to know about cases of early marriages when the girls come to report issues of child negligence and gender-based violence. "We have arrested and detained parents after carrying out investigations".

The DPC however, expresses disappointment that most parents report cases, but fail to bring victims for medical examination making it difficult to pin suspects in Court due to lack of the doctor's reports.

This he says happens after cases have been settled in the community.

Complainant, Byaruhanga says, prefer reporting cases at Busia police station, but this sometimes makes it difficult for detectives to move to sub-counties to look for prime suspects.

The community liaison department he says has intensified sensitisation in schools and the community.

Jannet Nabwire the area focal Power to Youth project says youths have been trained and empowered to amplify their voices by identifying, referring and reporting all forms of abuse and rights violations.

Nabwire says youth participation in activities at all levels has been enhanced as stakeholders are becoming interested in youth affairs.

This in addition to encouraging parents to meet their obligations by providing like pads and knickers whose absence makes men to take advantage of girls.

Mothers who requested not to be identified said they looked on helplessly as their daughters were being forced into marriage without knowing what to do after being threatened by their husbands.

They however said that have been empowered and are now actively involved in child protection.

What is being done

The district, religious leaders and Obwene'engo Bwa' Bugwe Cultural Institution have intensified awareness creation on the issue of teenage and early marriages by giving the children and their parents who are forced into marriage the right information.

Headteachers and school management committees have been sensitised to create a conducive environment to enable young mothers who have gone back to school after delivery to study.

Young mothers are also being trained in survival skills and economic empowerment to engage in income-generating activities.

Implementing patterns have continued to advocate for funding for health services in the district, especially on issues of maternal and reproductive health.

Capacities of members of village health teams and health workers have been built and youth friendly corners established in health facilities.


Reporting and referring to cases of rights violations against women and girls has helped in reducing gender-based violence as cases are being reported to local councils and police.

The district has formed joint advocacy forums for children, youths and women which have changed the attitudes of some parents particularly Muslims to stop forcing children into marriage.

Some girls have gone back to school to sit for PLE and UCE exams and youth-friendly corners have been established in some health facilities.

Some parents have come out to champion the fight against disco matanga by putting the authorities under pressure to criminalise the practice.


Okumu says the community-based services department is grappling with limited funding standing at only 2% saying this can hardly facilitate the department to carry out their activities.

Children's protection is allocated vote from local revenue which the district has failed to collect. The department is also poorly staffed making it difficult to supervise and monitor cases of child abuse.

Many cases of child abuse have been frustrating by poor parents who prefer negotiations and settling of cases out of Court, this has hindered the prosecution of child abusers as many walk free after paying fines hence obstructing justice.

There is also unco-ordinated interventions by many implementing partners some duplicating the same activities in the same sub-counties leaving out sub-counties where cases of child abuse are so high.

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