Open letter to a defiled Ugandan child

Mr Johnson Mayamba 

What you need to know:

Just like the other victims, you deserved better but we failed you as your elders. I want to apologise on behalf of that person you trusted so much who later betrayed you. What happened to you was evil

Dear child,

I bring you greetings on behalf of all parents, guardians, relatives, teachers and everyone you look up to. I know you are wondering what I have to say after all you have been through.

Firstly, as I read the Daily Monitor of November 14, 2022, I came across a story on Page 3 titled: “Head teacher flees after pupils are impregnated.” In the same paper on Page 13, there was another story with a headline: “Father accused of defiling girls for two years.” Moreover, on that very day, this newspaper’s website had another story: “Top Muslim cleric arrested over defiling 9-year-old girl in Sheema.”

After reading these stories, I recalled the 2021 police annual crime report that revealed that at least 281 children were defiled by suspects who were HIV-positive, imagine! There were also 112 children who were defiled by their guardians. Another 107 children were defiled by their biological parents. The report also said defilement cases had risen to at least 14,570 children who were defiled, compared to 14,230 cases reported in 2020. These numbers made me jump out of my skin.

Just like the other victims, you deserved better but we failed you as your elders. I want to apologise on behalf of that person you trusted so much and later betrayed you. What happened to you was evil. We blame ourselves for failing on our part to protect you when you needed us most.

I know this pain has caused you trauma. I can imagine having to live with HIV/Aids. You could be worried that you may never have hope of having your own children. Maybe at some point you have thought of ending your life as a result.

I want to assure you that you are not worthless as you may think or how others have made you feel. Do not allow to be silenced. While those you trusted before betrayed you, there are still some good Samaritans willing to hug you, love you, and help you heal. For you are still worthy of all the respect and dignity.

Here is where I find my hope for you. Our laws, especially the revised Penal Code Act of 2007 under Section 129 states that “any person who performs a sexual act with another person who is below the age of 18 years, commits a felony known as defilement and is on conviction liable to life imprisonment.”

Because of this law and many others, police managed to arrest suspects in 6,191 of 14,570 cases recorded in 2021 and took them to court. The court also jailed 939 suspects of those it received but police said the remaining cases are still being investigated. It was possible for the court to jail those who were found guilty because the victims were ready and willing to report and testify.

I have heard that some of these offenders give you sweets, money, ice cream and other gifts to stop you from reporting them. I also read somewhere that these monsters even threaten to kill you if you ever reported them. Please, do not be ashamed or fear to speak up. Find someone else you can trust to talk to. If you can access a phone, you may also call for free on 116 to ask for help from the government.

To the government, media and other child protection organisations, the time is now to step up our efforts towards creating awareness and enforcement of the law, as well as encouraging these children, boy or girl, to speak up and seek physical, mental and psychological help. The more we speak about these things in the open, the more people will feel encouraged to find the help they need.

Mahatma Gandhi once said: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” How are you treating that child in your care? Are you a proud steward?

Mr Johnson Mayamba is a human rights journalist.


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