Following the continuous cases of child marriage and violence against women in the families, leaders of Arua District and Uganda Human Rights Commission are drafting an ordinance to curb the vice.
The ordinance, code-named Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, which will be implemented in Arua district, is meant to punish the perpetrators and protect school age going children from being married off earlier.
Speaking during the consultative meeting Thursday, the Regional Human Rights Officer at UHRC, Ms Harriet Kajobe, said: “We have an obligation to protect rights of the downtrodden like women and girls in society.’’
She said the district leadership should ensure that the ordinance is enforced so that there is change in society.
“We should involve the communities more in creating awareness on their rights,” Ms Kajobe said.
Previous interventions by Non-governmental organisations including music, dance and drama, talk shows, community barazas and implementation of existing laws have not helped much.
During the Covid-19 lock down, there has been increasing cases of violence against women and early marriage. This, Ms Kajobe said ‘‘was saddening because many girls would not be able to return to school because they are married off early.’’
According to statistics from Action for Human Rights and Education Initiative-Uganda (AHEDI), from January to June this year, Arua District registered 989 cases of gender based violence, 531 cases of teenage pregnancy, and 38 cases of domestic violence.
The AHEDI Executive Director, Mr Fred Abibo said the current ordinance should not be packed in office cabinets without implementation, just like other ordinances that were enacted by the district.
“This should be an ordinance that can bite and be used to transform society. In 2012, we came up with a GBV ordinance, but the work was not completed because of lack of funds. So, we need to ensure that this one is thorough and enforced. People need to change their mind-set towards children and women,” he said.
The question of enforcement keeps lingering among the district leaders because the 2008 Education Ordinance, Food and Nutrition Ordinance of 2011 and Alcohol Control ordinance have remained dormant without enforcement on grounds that the district leadership does not have budget allocation for it.
Responding to the drafting of the current ordinance, the LC5 Chairman for Arua District, Mr Alfred Okuonzi, said: “We have a rotten generation because of moral decay which has affected rights of children and women. We should be known for doing good things and not bad things.”
Mr Okuonzi added: “We should protect the rights of innocent Ugandans. We have cases of children being dumped on streets by their mothers. We shall ensure that the law enforcement officers do not relax to enforce this ordinance once it is in place.”
As part of the measures to protect children, in May, Anglican Bishop of Madi and West Nile Diocese, Bishop Charles Collins Andaku, banned the religious leaders from blessing child marriages calling it a wicked act.
“All religious leaders should oppose and engage our congregations to discourage practice of forced and early marriage that involve teenage girls. Never shall any one of us (Priests) preside over such unlawful and ungodly acts,” he vowed.
The Uganda Women Network Program Officer for Arua, Ms Alice Munduru, said they registered 778 cases of teenage pregnancies in a survey that was conducted from March last year to December, which she said ‘‘is disturbing.’’