Young women who were abducted by extinguished Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in 2003 have petitioned Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and Education minister First Lady Janet Museveni, arguing that they are living an isolated life.
Most of the girls who were abducted in sub regions of Teso, Acholi and Lango returned home with children that they sired with rebels in the forced marriage.
The young women under their umbrella Girls’ Rights Clubs from districts of Kamuli, Buyende and Tororo asked the Speaker and First Lady to end sexual and gender based violence in Uganda.
Doreen Itwala, former abductee from Lwala Girls Secondary School in Kaberamaido district and also coordinator of Lwala Girls former abductees said that they are going through a torrid time seeking acceptance back in their communities because their family relatives are excommunicating them for siring kids with rebels and above all returning home with deadly HIV/AIDs virus.
“Most of the abducted girls returned with children and some of them are HIV positive. We are living a horrible, isolated life and relatives are threatening to excommunicate us. The relatives are asking us to take back the children to their fathers because they have criminal blood. We have failed to cope up with life,” Itwala said.
Itwala was among the 180 girls who were abducted from Lwala Girls in 2003. She escaped a day after Charles Tabuley, the LRA’s second in command was killed by UPDF forces in Kabermaido.
Itwala added that if their communities do not accept them back in society, then they will have no option, but go back to the bush and look for the fathers of their children.
“If our communities do not take us in then these girls could go and look for the fathers of their kids because these kids are being harshly treated and judged by our communities and they could also consider looking for their fathers which could be a security threat in the future,” she added.
In their petition presented by a one Fina Rehema Kenzo, the young girls have among others called upon Parliament to speed up the passing of the Sexual Offences and Marriage Bills to harmonize the laws on marriage and address the policy gaps so as to strengthen protection of women and girls from abuse and sexual exploitation.
Janet Museveni in her response committed herself to fight sexual and gender based violence especially in schools, but also urged families to take collective responsibility to protect their children against perpetrators of sexual abuse.
“We need to work collectively for the safety of our children as a country, not just as government. Communities who bring up these young people should equally take responsibility because even if Education ministry tries to fight the problem of early pregnancies, early marriages and sexual abuse in schools, these same problems still persist outside schools,” Janet Museveni said.
She added that her ministry is committed to work with other sectors to ensure that challenges of early pregnancies and other related problems are wiped out of schools.
The 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey report indicates that cases of child marriage and teenage pregnancy are on the rise with the former increasing from 24% to 25% while the latter remains highest in Eastern region with 29% prevalence against the national rate of 25%.
A survey done by the Uganda Aids Commission on HIV/AIDS infections among adolescent girls revealed that 500 adolescent girls are infected with HIV weekly in Uganda which posted 9.1% prevalence of HIV among girls. In terms of teenage pregnancies, a total number of 7026 girls between 10-19 years of age attended their first antenatal visit between July 2016 to June 2017.