Authorities in the Iganga district of eastern Uganda have arrested a couple for marrying off their underage daughter. According to the Monitor, police arrested Jabi Nakaziba and her husband Richard Nalugodha for allegedly marrying off their 15-year-old daughter to a 17-year-old teenage boy for $23.
The victim, a primary five pupil at Bubala Primary School, was forced to drop out to marry the boy, who was also a dropout from the neighboring Bupala Primary School.
The girl, who is two months pregnant and clearly not in the best of health, told police that her parents forced her to marry the boy after accepting his money, adding that she had been subjected to torture and denied care by her husband.
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“His uncle approached my mother and they agreed to pay a bride price of Sh150,000. They paid Sh100, 000 and promised to pay the balance later. I was digging from 6 a.m. until afternoon and I would be beaten whenever I asked for necessities,” she told police.
The girl’s parents confessed to marrying off their underage daughter for money. Her mother told police she decided to marry off her daughter because the family could no longer afford to buy her books and other school materials.
The Menace of Child Marriage
Child marriage remains prevalent in Uganda and according to UNICEF’s “2016 State of the World’s Children” report, nearly 1 in every 2 girls in Uganda is married before the age of 18. The report further reveals that at least 10 percent of girls are married by the age of 15.
In Uganda, like many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, child marriage is often deeply interrelated with poverty. Many poor Ugandan parents marry off their young daughters in anticipation of the money they’ll receive as a dowry payment. Cultural norms also encourage the early marriage of adolescent girls as a way to preserve their chastity.
According to the Ugandan constitution, the minimum age for marriage is 18 for both girls and boys, but a girl may be allowed to marry at 16 with parental consent. Uganda is also one of 12 countries selected to be part of the United Nations Population Fund and UNICEF’s Global Program to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage.