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By Godfrey Olukya     17-3-2014

Poverty and hunger which has resulted from the long drought in eastern Uganda has led to parents there marrying off their under age daughters after being paid  a bag of dry cassava or  50,000 shillings.( equivalent of 20 US dollars.)

The most affected area in eastern region is Teso region. Apart from the long drought,the area also experiences floods during rainy season which has made agriculture, the main income earner, difficult to practice and hence poverty striking hard.

The girls being sold off that cheaply are mostly aged between 14 1nd 17 years. According to World vision recent assessment of the situation, more that 90 per cent of the children in Teso are married off below the age of 18.

Police in Teso has started to probe into child marriages. The head of the police family and child protection department in Teso, at Soroti police station  Margaret Adong  said that the reason parents attach a price to children is because if the rising famine and poverty levels in Teso.

She told government Newspaper, The New Vision ”During famine girls are married off so that the bride price can be used to feed the remaining members of the family.”

Adong said that marrying off underage girls could lead to increase in HIV-AIDs. She said,” Due to high poverty levels, parents are forcing their children into marriage saying ‘let me get what I can out of you before I die.’ The trend has led to school drop-outs, child pregnancies and marriages plus rise in HIV-AIDs infections.”
She said that police has embarked on massive hunt for the young girls who were married off so that they can be returned to their parents and later to schools. They are also arresting those who marry the girls so that they face charges of defilement.
”I was recently married off. The man paid 55,000 shillings to my parents and forced me to get married to him. I escaped from the man because he was far older than me and I was not used to marriage exercises. He was  45 years old.” narrated 15 yr old Rose Acia who is now under the care of a local NGO.
In Uganda the age of consent is 18 yrs. It is illegal to marry off a girl below that age.
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