Punish culprits of teenage pregnancies

Thursday November 14 2019

Dialogue. Members of Parliament on the

Dialogue. Members of Parliament on the Parliamentary Health Committee interface with some of the teenage girls at Budaka Health Centre in September 2017. FILE PHOTO 

By Editor

Medical records at Kitswamba Health Centre III in Kasese District indicate that in August, 11 teenage mothers of between 12 and 19 years, were registered for antenatal care at the facility.

This was half a dozen lower than the 17 that had been recorded at the same facility in July.
It is sad that the country still grapples with the evil of teenage pregnancies. The 16-year-old mother found at Kitswamba said her ordeal started when she was defiled on her way to fetch water from the well.

She was in Primary Six then and the unwanted pregnancy forced her to drop out of school. One of the reasons for this is that children trek long distances in search of water, usually in the evenings and end up falling prey to unscrupulous men.

Sadly, many of the affected girls do not report the incidents to the authorities. But in some cases, parents accuse teachers of being perpetrators of teenage pregnancies. Yet these are people meant to protect and nurture the children as opposed to harassing them sexually.

It is a shame that in the 21st Century, teenage pregnancies are still plaguing girls in Uganda. When girls get pregnant at such a young age, they miss out on living to their full potential.

Many of the pregnant girls drop out of school and thus miss out on one of their fundamental rights to education. Some suffer from reproductive health complications such as fistula that come with delivering a child at such an age yet every child has a right to good health.

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A number of civil society organisations have joined the fight against the vice, but there is more to be done, especially if people such as teachers abate the crime. Although the Kasese District chairperson, Mr Sibendire Bigogo, has warned that they will arrest men who lure young girls into sex, the government should be deliberate about mitigating the crime.

For instance, there is need to spread out programmes that empower girls to know their rights and also sensitise them about the dangers of early sex. Families should also be empowered to demand justice for their abused children as well as economically to provide for their girls as a way of preventing them from falling for little provisions from men who want to take advantage of them.

Most importantly, lawmakers should prosecute men who marry these children or defile them. Every girl-child deserves a bright future and a safe country where they are free to fulfil their potential.

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