CHILDREN | SEXUAL VIOLENCE
KAMPALA - The failure to have birth information of all children is to blame for the increasing sexual violence against young girls, child activists have said.
Lack birth records gives an upper hand to the perpetrators to go off scot-free since there is always lack of concrete evidence to prove the age of those sexually abused.
Speaking to the media in Kampala, the head of health and nutrition at Save the Child Uganda, Dr. Patricia Pirio said without birth registration, it makes it difficult for police to investigate the case of defilement to conclusion, because there must be proof of age of the victim.
“Because of this, investigations in such cases abort along the way and culprits are left to go, as there is always no evidence to prove their age. That is why we are calling on government to enforce child birth registrations for the protection of these children in future,” she said.
Statistics indicate that 40% or 3,000,000 children under the age of five are not registered at birth, which exposes them to all kinds of violence," added Pirio.
She said it is the reason the country is today experiencing high cases of child mothers, noting that 58% of 15-19 year-old girls have experienced physical or sexual violence.
According to UNICEF, out of every 10 girls, five are married off before the age of 18.
Pirio said child sexual abuses undermine the girls’ ability to meaningfully contribute to national development. “So eradication of child sexual abuses should be a high priority on the government’s agenda."
Adding that 25% teenagers (young women aged 15-19) have already begun child bearing.
She attributed this to high poverty levels, forcing young girls to look for work thus forced into extreme conditions like commercial sex resulting into early pregnancies and dropping out of school.
The situational analysis of child poverty and deprivation in Uganda 2014 rates child marriages at 57%, Northern Uganda (59% slightly above the national average), Western Uganda (58%), East Central Uganda (52%), West Nile (50%), Central 2 (46%), Central 1 (41%), Southwest (37%), and Kampala at 21%.
The executive director of Uganda Child Rights NGO Network, Stella Ayo-Odongo raised concern over the bad cultural and religious beliefs, which she said has also fueled sexual abuse against girls.
“Like in the Muslim religion they marry off girls of under age. Other tribes like the Sabinyi still circumcise young girls. Government must come up with strong laws to protect these girls,” she said.
The activists called for a comprehensive policy for children and a strong penalty for the culprits.
Agnes Kyesubire, a senior advocacy officer at Save the Child, said registering births and deaths is key because it helps to ensure fundamental rights of citizens and provides data.
She said despite the government’s interventions to promote registration services at hospitals, a lot still needs to be done because many births and deaths go unrecorded.
They called on all stakeholders to join hands to push the campaign of registrering children countrywide.
Uganda is one the countries in the world with the youngest population with 50% of its population below the age of 18.