Authorities in Busoga grapple with teen pregnancies resulting from rape

Phiona*, 13, with grandmother at Lukotaime Village, Kagulu Sub-county in Buyende District, on Tuesday. PHOTO/SAM CALEB OPIO

What you need to know:

Last year, Buyende, Kamuli, and Luuka districts recorded 4,853, 5,242, and 2,383 antenatal visits, respectively. Of these, 157 were teenage mothers under 15 years old. Buyende accounted for 84, Kamuli 44, and Luuka 29

Authorities in Busoga Sub-region are grappling with the rise in teenage pregnancies resulting from rape. Phiona, 13, and Rehema, 14, residents of Lukotaime Village, Kagulu Sub-county, Buyende District, are the latest victims. They are currently in their third and second trimesters, respectively.

Phiona alleged that she was raped by a machete-wielding assailant at her grandfather's house, under the watch of her helpless elderly caretaker. Rehema was waylaid and raped in a sugarcane plantation while returning from fetching water.

In 2022, Faith Nyapendi (not her real name), a physically disabled teenager, was allegedly waylaid and raped while collecting firewood. She gave birth to a baby boy in 2023 and currently lives with her grandmother in Musirisisi Village, Budhaya Sub-County, Bugiri.

Last year, Buyende, Kamuli, and Luuka districts recorded 4,853, 5,242, and 2,383 antenatal visits, respectively. Of these, 157 were teenage mothers under 15 years old. Buyende accounted for 84, Kamuli 44, and Luuka 29.

According to Mr Julius Otai, a senior mental health and psychiatric nurse at Kamuli General Hospital, women are more attractive during ovulation, making them vulnerable to rape and pregnancy.

"I'm not surprised that these young girls were raped and got pregnant because they could have been at the peak of ovulation, making them attractive and sexually appealing to rapists," he said.

Mr Otai emphasized that intervention efforts must focus on antenatal care, facility deliveries, and encouraging teenage mothers to return to school. He also advocated for rehabilitation, Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights skills, and assurance that pregnancy is not the end of their world.

With limited interventions available, Rehema received counseling from Situka Single Mothers' Foundation and continued her studies, while Phiona has shied away.

Ms Aisha Nakyola, the chairperson of Situka Single Mothers' Foundation, noted that teenage mothers face grave and dangerous challenges, including health risks, self-denial, poverty, and missed opportunities.

Ms Nakyola observed that teenage mothers are at high health risk, experience self-denial, poverty, and missed opportunities in life. This calls for addressing knowledge gaps in Sexual Reproductive Health Rights, scaling up teenage counseling, and creating youth-friendly corners at health units.

"Health workers' demands, including Mama Kits and identification of the men responsible for the pregnancies, deter victims from seeking antenatal care. They resort to local massages and herbs, putting their lives and those of their unborn children at risk," she said.