It’s becoming a common practice for young girls below the age of 18 to be married off and many parents consent to the marriage
Women rights activists have demanded for stronger actions against the perpetrators of child marriages in the Rwenzori region.
Cases of girls being married off at a young age are high in the districts of Ntoroko, Kasese, Kamwenge, Kabarole and Kyenjojo and the district authorities have been blamed for not addressing the matter.
During a regional annual women in leadership colloquium held in Fort Portal on Wednesday and organized by Uganda women Network (UWONET), activists observed that cases of early marriages are increasing at an alarming rate in the region but authorities are remaining silent on the matter.
Young girls aged 13-18 years have been forcefully married off with consent of the parents because the parents are poor.
Kasifa Muhasa a member of the Kasese district council said that girls are being abducted for marriage at the ages of 13 and later parents accept gifts like cows and goats.
“It’s becoming a common practice for young girls below the age of 18 to be married off and many parents consent to the marriage and it has greatly affected the girl child education in the region,”Kasifa said.
According to the activists 70 girls were married off last year in Ntoroko alone, while another 30 girls have been married off since January 2017.
In some villages, the girls who have refused to be married off are either chased out of the homes by their parents or denied education.
Recently save the children in Uganda offered to facilitate the officials in the districts to trace the girls who had been married off and return them to their parents, however most of them have not yet been traced as parents are not supportive. The early marriages have also increased the rate of school drop outs among the girls.
Francis Balinda a child rights activists in the Rwenzori region said that the districts are aware of the practice, but can’t do anything because efforts to curb the practice are being frustrated by the local leaders, who claim that it is cultural.
He said that the districts should continue sensitizing parents against marrying off their daughters at an early age.
A study conducted recently by Uganda Youth Development Link indicated that 40 percent of the girls as young as 13 are married off before they complete their primary education cycle. The study established that parents in the districts of Kasese, Bundibugyo and Ntoroko, were marrying off girls in exchange for cows, goats and other household items.
Sandra Komuhimbo a research and advocacy officer at UWONET said that they are currently empowering women leaders to advocate for women empowerment in the areas of health and education.
“We are working with women leaders at all levels in ensuring that they advocate for issues which are affecting the women and more especially girls in schools,”Komuhimbo said.