Teenage couple lives in fear of arrest

Teenage pregnancies became rampant at the onset of Covid-19. Photo/File

What you need to know:

  • The two would have easily held a formal introduction ceremony, but their parents fear being arrested for arranging a child marriage and are instead reportedly encouraging them to adjust their ages upfront.

Sam, 14, and Rachael, 13, are living as husband and wife with their eight-month-old son in Nsomba Village, Kagulu Sub-county in Buyende District.

The two would have easily held a formal introduction ceremony, but their parents fear being arrested for arranging a child marriage and are instead reportedly encouraging them to adjust their ages upfront.

Sam, a Primary Five dropout, and Rachael, who was in Primary Three last year, met during a sports day at Nsomba Primary School and immediately “fell in love” since they were both part of the athletics team.

When Rachael conceived late last year, the harsh realities of life hit her hard, forcing her to retreat to Sam’s home.

While there, she was faced with the stigma associated with teenage pregnancies and the prospects of being arrested, shunned antenatal visits, but successfully delivered a baby boy from home whom she named “Mukisa”, loosely translated as luck.

“When I got pregnant, my friends started laughing at me, saying I would die, they would cut me (undergo caesarian section) and so on, while my parents became harsh towards me, saying I had ashamed them.

My dad would beat me whenever he returned home at night and I became my parents’ cause of domestic violence,” she said in an interview on Tuesday.

While the young couple grapples with parenting, Sam has increasingly grown paranoid and is constantly looking over his shoulder for fear that he is being trailed and could be arrested for defilement.

In the meantime, they are holding onto the hope of growing rice, cassava, and local vegetables to top up on the help they receive from their respective mothers.

Rachael’s mother-in-law, Ms Katrina Namulinda, says she was opposed to her “marriage” to her son, but had a “social obligation” as a mother to look after them.

“Sam is a product of a past marriage and my current husband doesn’t like him and is against their stay with me; so, I had to buy a plot of land for them and it is where they are living now,” she said.

The Busoga North Police spokesperson, Mr Michael Kasadha, said he is cross-checking with his team and wondered how such a crime has been kept low.

“We are taking this as a tip and I am following it up for further investigation; otherwise, child marriage is a crime,” Mr Kasadha said.

Ms Namulinda, however, describes Rachael as a ‘well behaved and respectful girl who easily adapts well to family life despite having had a troubled past’.

“She respects us and is a hardworking girl who is ready to learn and live under all conditions,” Ms Namulinda added.

Jamawa Alikoba, a neighbour and close confidant of the young couple, said Rachael was scared of delivering, especially by the caesarean section, saying she was too young and could easily die. That is when the thought of aborting crept in. But she delivered normally at home.

Ms Shamim Nakibogo, the chief executive officer of Mama Africa, a local NGO, condemned the rampant child marriages and teenage pregnancies, which she said are key contributing factors to the high school dropouts .

“This is a classic case of child-to-child sex and eventual ‘marriage’ which infringes on children’s rights, reawakens sexual reproductive health rights, and puts one at crossroads with law, natural justice, and parenting values,” said Ms Nakibogo.

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 Despite being well-endowed with natural and human resources, Busoga Sub-region is synonymous with poverty and other vices, including teenage pregnancies, and early marriages, among others. The Uganda Bureau of Statistics  report for 2021/2022 says Busoga has the highest number of people living in poverty followed by Bukedea and Karamoja.