The Minister for ICT, Hon. Judith Nabakooba has been shocked with the huge numbers of children abused in homes by either their parents or guardians during the COVID 19 lock down period which started in March to May this year.
In her statement, Hon. Nabakooba mentions that, “ during the peak of the lock down between March, April, May, June and July, a total of twenty one thousand two hundred sixty (21,260) cases of child were reported to police.” She further notes that out of these, more than half of them involved in situations of children being abused from home.
Statistics in the statement reveal that since the COVID 19 period in March, some of the areas with the highest number of cases include, Kamuli, Gulu, Naggalama, Kiryandongo and Jinja road policing area in Kampala.
The minister now attributes the rapid increase pattern in child abuse and domestic violence cases in homes to COVID-19 lockdown in March and the subsequent closure of schools.
The report goes ahead to highlight an increase in child marriages with cases involving underage girls being sold off into marriage in exchange for money and other commodities.
We are seeing an increase in cases of defilement and rape. In some of these cases, the culprits abusing children are parents and close family members.
With increasing early marriage in some parts of the country this has resulted into increasing cases of teenage pregnancies in communities across the country. ”In some of the cases, both the girl and boy are under age.”
Though COVID-19 has deeply affected everyone, the abuse and violence being faced by children in the community is not acceptable. Says the minister.
The closure of schools should never be an excuse to violate the rights of children and expose them to any form of sexual abuse.
As government we call upon all parents, care givers and community members to rise up to their responsibilities and ensure that children are safe all the time.
They must be protected at the time and most especially during this time when schools are still closed.
Children are going through a difficult time being out of school and therefore they need a lot of care and love, support and guidance.
Parents should create time, talk with the children and explain the current situation rather than resorting to violence.
I call upon all community members to report any case of violence, abuse or exploitation of children. This can be reported through the traditional community structures or local law enforcement agencies such as police or local council.
Hon. Nabakooba reminds parents and care givers of their responsibility to ensure children continue to learn while out of school by giving them access to the learning materials distributed by government.
Parents and caregivers should reach out to their local leaders and ensure that they receive the learning materials.