Abim, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Police in Abim district has arrested a 39-year-old woman for allegedly marrying off her daughter at an early age.
Maurice Auma, a resident of Nateete village in Awach sub county was arrested on Friday following a tip-off from concerned neighbors who alerted the authorities about the traditional marriage ceremony involving Auma’s 16 year old school girl and a 24 year old man.
Under Ugandan law, any person who has sexual intercourse with a girl below 18 is guilty of defilement, a capital offence for which death is the maximum sentence. Section 133 of the penal code also sets a five-year prison sentence as a penalty for persons involved in aiding defilement.
This stern liability is based on the legal presumption that females under eighteen are neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers, and therefore need to be protected. It is also assumed that by marrying them off, such children are denied their rights to health, education and opportunity and robbed of their childhood.
The mother and her son in-law, Patrick Okech are being held at Abim central police station pending further investigations. Auma had allegedly received 1 cow and an unspecified amount of money as bride price for her daughter who is a primary six pupil of Gwotapo primary school in Abim district. Reports indicate that the traditional marriage was held at the home of Oketch in the same village.
The Abim District Police Commander Living Twazagye says that Auma is being held on charges of procuring marriage for a child contrary to the law.
“A general inquiry has been opened. Police are still recording statements” adding that he was yet to get details about the case.
The Abim Resident District Commissioner Samuel Mpimbaza Hashaka said he ordered the arrest of the mother after his office was notified about the traditional marriage. He said the practice was on the rise in Abim following the closure of schools following the outbreak of COVID-19.
Hashaka said since the lockdown, seven cases of defilement have been reported to his office and all were referred to police for action.
Christine Akello, the program officer FIDA-Uganda recently challenged the local councils in Karamoja to enact stringent local laws that will protect children from abuse.