A total of 25 girls aged between six and 14 were defiled during the first two months of the lockdown in Lyantonde District.
Defilement is defined as having sexual intercourse with a girl who is below the age of 18.
According to a survey titled: “Cases of Gender-Based Violence and Violence against Children handled during the Covid-19 crisis” carried out by the Department of Community Based Services and released on May 22, 114 cases of violence against children were reported to the district probation office between March 19 and May 19.
This is a big increase when compared to the 235 cases reported in the last six months before March 19.
At least 25 young girls were impregnated and these have either been married off or have given birth in Lyantonde Town Council and the sub-counties of Lyakajula and Kasangama.
In the last six months before the lockdown, a total of 56 girls were defiled in the district.
Another 36 children were neglected by their parents.
According to Mr Andrew Timothy Kamugasha, the senior probation officer in Lyantonde, poor parenting coupled with greed for dowry are to blame for the rampant cases of early marriages and teenage pregnancies.
“If parents were playing their role well, we would not have registered such cases. All these cases have been recorded during the lockdown when parents are expected to be at home together with their children,” he said during an interview on Sunday.
A total of five cases of incest were reported to the district probation office, juvenile delinquent cases were three, and abandoned children cases were two. One child labour case was also reported, and there were three child torture cases.
Mr Kamugasha said their efforts to curb defilement and teenage pregnancies have been frustrated by some parents who conspire with defilers and some unscrupulous police officers who are bribed.
“The biggest challenge is that most parents ignore legal proceedings and prefer to negotiate with the suspects of defilement for material gain. Unless our people come out and allow the law to take its course, this evil of defilement will continue to rear its ugly head in our communities,” he added.
Non-Governmental Organisations operating in Lyantonde have in their previous reports attributed child abuse and high HIV prevalence, which stands at 19 per cent in Lyantonde Town Council, to patriarchal arrangements like Okwarirana(sharing wives) .
A 2016 report by Forum for Women in Democracy, an organisation fighting for gender equality, revealed that 65 per cent of girls in Lyantonde District drop out of school before completing Primary Seven.
Ms Miriam Titwe (not real name ), 17, a resident of Kooki Cell in Lyantonde Town Council, said she usually seeks refuge at a neighbour’s house to avoid being grabbed by a team of youth who want to force her into marriage with a local mechanic.
“I cannot report to police because I have no money to pay them and I fear telling my parents,” Ms Titwe said.
Mr Didas Byaruhanga, the district police commander, said although incidents of defilement and teenage pregnancies have occurred during the past months, they have fewer figures compared to those compiled by the department of community based services at the district.
Mr Byaruhanga said it is criminal for the probation office to receive such cases and fail to report them to police.
“As police, we have built enough capacity to handle all cases reported even if parents are compromised because any other responsible citizen can be a complainant,” he said.
He adds: “Let the multi-sectoral approach be adopted where by each particular case reported be shared and we forge a away forward.”
Ms Pauline Kemirembe, the Lyantonde District Woman MP, asked residents to rise up and fight all forms of violence against children.
She cited a recent case of a two-year-old baby girl who was defiled and she cannot pass urine and other wastes normally.
“The probation office at the district cannot single-handedly fight this war. We need all people on board,” she said.
This situation is not better in the neigbouring Rakai District. A survey commissioned by the Rakai District probation office in 2017 revealed that 306 girls were defiled in the district in 2016, another 64 girls disappeared from their parents and are believed to have got married.
According to the report, more than 3,362 children between the ages of 10 to 17 are already mothers.