It is sickening that wrong elements in our society destroy the sexual innocence of at least 665 children every month, another 155 per week and 22 every day, as Police Crime Report issued in 2013, shows. Even when these sex crimes on girls and boys below 18 years are punishable by tough sanctions, including the death penalty, the practice continues.
The rate at which children’s rights are violated demands citizens’ and government’s immediate action, as suggested by children rights body, ANPPCAN Uganda. But the abuse of minors can only stop when the majority of Ugandans become aware of the elements of the offences. For instance, the law requires that a victim must be under 18 years, and someone must have had sexual knowledge of the victim, and the accused proven to have committed the offence.
But for now, most of the cases go unreported because society fears the stain more than they feel sorry for the victims. As information from the Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention indicates, fear of public shame by the parents involved drives the vice underground. Many more are unreported because some parents are bought off to keep quiet. Others are covered up because perpetrators are close relatives or those who hold power in the communities.
Even worse, many of the reported cases are lost because of lack of proof of both ages of victims, and of culpability of the culprits, according to ANPPCAN Uganda. These lapses demand citizens remain sensitive to the several types of defilement. This also implies that Parliament become responsive to the problem. Therefore the Penal Code (Amendment) Act, 2007, should be redefined to cover sexual exploitation.
As Paul Nyende of Makerere University Department of Psychology says, defilement should be expanded to embrace sexual exploitation or attraction to children. This would widen defilement and molestation beyond sexual penetration. It should include exposing one’s nakedness to a child or having them fondle one and vice versa to derive sexual pleasure.
This would also cover touching that is sexual and showing pornographic material to a child. Seven years ago, Parliament changed Section 129 of the Penal Code Act, 2007 to capture the plight of young boys after it emerged that women and men were exploiting loopholes in the law. Parliament should do the same to capture sexual exploitation.
As a new series starting in the Sunday Monitor today explores this vice, we urge citizens to stay alert to ingredients of defilement and sexual molestation.
Only then can culprits, especially those entrusted with the care of nearly 20.4 million innocent Ugandan children, be caught, deterrent sentences issued, and the practice stopped.