Friday February 1 2013

Activists attack minister over child marriage

By Martin Ssebuyira

Civil Society leaders working to prevent violence against children have attacked Primary Education Minister Kamanda Bataringaya over Uganda’s world position in early child marriages.

The criticism started after civil society leaders, presented a research from United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) showing that Uganda ranks 14th in early childhood marriages in the world, with 46 per cent of their girls getting married before 18 years.

But the minister objected to the findings, saying different countries have different consent age with some placing theirs at 16 or 17 years, a situation he says cannot put Uganda in the 14th position.

Mr Michael Orach Osinde, the executive director Tororo Community Integrated Development Action, said: “These are proven scientific facts by researchers. The minister coming out to defend the country politically without any fact instead of seeing how to deal with the problem is unfortunate.”

Mr Osinde was on Monday launching ‘Girls Not for Brides’, an alliance against child marriage and prevention of violence against children in Kampala.

He said many factors, including cultural and political instability, accounts for increased child marriages that the minister did not put into account.

However, Mr Bataringaya said Uganda has laws against child labor policy and sex abuse, among others, aimed at putting an end to child marriages and violence against children.

He said the government remains committed to ending child violence and early childhood marriages although interventions by other stakeholders are highly welcome.

Mr Moses Ntenga, the executive director Joy for Children, an organisation heading the ‘Girls Not for Brides’ campaign, said they seek to amplify voices of girls at risk of child marriage and defend their right to health, education, among others.

Joy for Children- Uganda, an NGO, was established by a group of youths, who were later joined by community members to respond to issues facing children in Uganda.