Government has raised concern over the increasing number of cases of child abuse during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Minister of ICT and National Guidance Judith Nabakooba said on Sunday that since the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed in March and the subsequent closure of schools, domestic violence targeting children is on the rise.
The Minister says there are a number of reports showing an increase in child marriage and the cases involve underage girls being sold off into marriage in exchange for money and other items.
“We are also seeing an increase in cases of defilement and rape. In some of these cases, the culprits abusing children are parents and close family members. Government has noted with concern the increase cases of teenage pregnancies in communities across the country. In some of these cases, both boys and girls are underage,” she said.
Some of the areas with high numbers of child abuse since COVID-19 lockdown in March include Kamuli, Gulu, Naggalama and Kiryandongo among others.
During the peak of the lockdown between March and July, a total of 21,260 cases of child abuse were reported to police. Out of these, more than a half involved situations of children being abused from home.
Whereas government acknowledges that COVID-19 deeply affected everyone, Nabakooba said abuse and violence being faced by children in the community is unacceptable.
The closure of schools, she said 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, caregivers and community members to rise up to their responsibilities and ensure that children are safe all the time and most especially during the time when schools are closed. Parents should create time, talk with the children and explain the current situation rather than resorting to violence,” she added.
Nabakooba called on community members to report any case of violence, abuse or exploitation of children to the law enforcement agencies.