A new report on the scale, scope and context of sexual exploitation of children released by NGOs Ecpat International and Uganda Youth Development Link (UYDEL), has revealed that Uganda is a source, transit and destination country for children subjected to trafficking for sexual purposes.
While presenting the report in Kampala yesterday, Rogers Mutaawe the senior programme manager at UYDEL said children are trafficked to be exploited through early and forced marriages.
The report reveals that traffickers target girls and women aged 13 – 24 years for domestic sex trafficking to be exploited in the vicinity of sports tournaments and construction projects.
It further states that Ugandan boys and girls comprise the majority victims, although traffickers also exploit children from nearby countries of DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and South Sudan.
In 2017 officials from the Office of the Prime Minister were alleged to have been complicit in the movement and sexual exploitation of vulnerable populations from refugee resettlements in Uganda to South Sudan.
Two thirds of Uganda’s total refugee population are children and according to Mutaawe 10% of the child refugees are unaccompanied and/ or separated.
“If 10% of refugees who come to Uganda are Children and they are unaccompanied, in a foreign country with no parents, who is taking care of them? I don’t think we have enough mechanisms and enough support system to take care of these children. In most cases Children especially in refugee settlements are vulnerable to early and forced marriages,” he said
The report also reveals that displacement is not the only circumstance making Children in Uganda vulnerable to exploitation but also poverty and lack of adequate education.
Mutaawe also said that 15% of females aged 18 – 24 years who had sex before the age of 18 reported exchanging sex for material support during childhood.
The report further indicates that uganda continues to have one of the highest rates of child early and forced marriages in the world.
“The intersection of poverty, traditional norms and child early and forced marriages have produced a cycle in which poverty and low education attainment increase the livelihood of girls marrying early. 40% of women aged 20 – 40 years reported that they were married before that age. In some regions it is as high as 70%. Some parents don’t allow their children to study. They rather force them to get married in exchange for pride price,” Mutaawe added
Gender inequalities and unemployment are also highlighted in the report to have strong impact on the lives of adolescent girls who continue to experience multiple vulnerabilities at individual, household and community level.
Evaluation findings from PEVUS project implemented by UYDEL and Plan International Uganda indicate that lack of livelihood skills and economic disempowerment drive and sustain sexual exploitation among girls and women in the urban slums.
The violence against Children study conducted by UNICEF and Ministry of gender in 2018 indicated that three quarters of young adults had experienced some form of sexual, physical or emotional violence during childhood.
The report highlighted recommendations which include emphasize the need to reduce refugee Children’s vulnerability to sexual exploitation, adoption of sexual offenses Bill, harmonize legislation on child, early and forced to, criminalize all forms of online sexual exploitation, criminalize sexual exploitation of Children in travel and tourism among others.
Ana Nalubya, the deputy director UYDEL said the organization is currently implementing a project dubbed “PARLE” to address issues of sexual exploitation and abuse of Children in the country.
She also said that the project targets Children between the ages of 13 – 24 years with the role of reducing sexual exploitation in Children
“The role of the project is to reduce the vulnerability of Children towards sexual exploitation and abuse by promoting and encouraging child participation,” she said
She also said that the program will address issues of commercial sex work, child pornography, trafficking for sexual exploitation purposes and sexual violence.
Furthermore, Nalubya said that they have worked with 173 young people who have fallen victims of the above issues.
“We have provided vocational training to all 173 young people and last year we had 35 who graduated from various vocational skills, she added.