Child marriage rates are staggeringly high in the Rwenzori region, mid-western Uganda. In a country, where 10% of the girls get conjugal before the age of 15 years and 40% of the girls get married before the age of 18 years.
They are forced into marriage due to greediness for money by the parents and other factors like; lack, low education, traditions/customs, matchmaking and pre-marital sex.
THE IMPACTS OF CHILD MARRIAGE
The penalties of child marriage are upsetting and often determine a life’s path.
Health Experts reveal that girls who tie the knot young and give birth before their physiques are fully developed are at an advanced peril of dying or incurring dreadful injury and illness in childbirth.
The young girls face a tremendous ailment known as obstetric fistula, this occurs when the young mother’s vagina tears during childbearing which leads to leaking of urine or excrement from her private part when surgery is not conducted and it can be a permanent condition.
In addition, risk can extend to newborn babies, who are 60% likely to die in the first year of life.
Inordinate exposure to HIV/AIDS
Child brides are at greater threat of contracting HIV/AIDS; frequently they are married to older men who are sexually experienced and tough to negotiate safe sexual actions, particularly when under gravity to bear children.
Findings show that married girls aged 15-19 years are 75 per cent more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than sexually active unmarried girls of the same age.
Greater exposure to domestic and sexual violence
Girls who are engaged in early marriage are more prospective to be abused sexually, physically and emotionally. They are thrust into the full burden of domestic responsibility, motherhood and sexual relations rather than playing with friends, dreaming about a career or worrying about a school exam.
In many countries, young married girls move away from their parents’ abode to live with their husband and his family, where they have no friends, no support, and little say in their own lives or household matters.
They are unable to convey or obtain support for issues in their interest, they’re frequently open to violence, threats of rejection, and divorce and they do not participate in decision-making in the family because of the unequal bargaining position.
School drop outs
Ladies who marry early in their teen stage, usually drop out of school and do not achieve the knowledge and essential expertise they need to sustain life in the future.
WAYS TO PREVENT CHILD MARRIAGE IN UGANDA
- Encouraging the related governmental bodies to materialize existing policy into curbing child marriage.
- Raise awareness of child marriage through capacity building and public campaigns: This can be done by the government cooperating with existing youth groups/ organizations to raise community awareness about child marriage and sexual harassment. Capacity building for teachers and students in school concerning Sexual and reproductive health rights.
- Improving young people’s access to contraceptive information and materials by promoting health services for the youth which are provided in the community health center.
- Promoting alternatives other than formal education for women who drop out of school due to child marriage to continue their education.
- Investing into small and micro businesses which involve young women and training them on the use of social media for marketing.
- Religious leaders and organizations should advocate for the stop of child marriage at the community and policy levels.
Although many non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, civil society organizations, local leaders, religious, cultural and political leaders, activists, and human rights defenders have come out to speak about child marriage and advocate for the rights of girl child education more effort is still needed through community sensitization to change the mindset and negative attitudes of parents towards girl child education and their rights.