An eleven-year-old boy from Kitgum district has been locked up at Gulu remand home over allegations that he defiled a three-year-old girl.
The boy, whose name we cannot reveal because he is a minor, was arrested on in late August 2019. He was first remanded at Kitgum central prison for four days before his eventual transfer to Gulu, from where he’s still being held.
When a UGANET team led by the head of advocacy and strategic litigation, Immaculate Owomugisha, visited the boy in Gulu on Friday, August 30, he was oblivious of the gravity of the accusations against him. He said he expects his mother to come for him on Independence Day, October 9 and take him back to their home in Kitgum.
However, the boy’s case is compounded by the fact that he has the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and is on anti-retroviral treatment. According to his mother, who we cannot also name in order to protect the boy’s identity, her son contracted HIV from her when he was a toddler.
“My son was born free of HIV but when I was breastfeeding him, that’s when he contracted the disease. He is the six-born and he is the only child in our family that has the virus,” she said, through an interpreter.
On Wednesday, August 29, 2019, the boy was presented before Kitgum Magistrate’s Court and charged with defilement. Thereafter, he was remanded at Gulu remand home, some 90 kilometres from his family.
The boy’s plight came to the attention of UGANET during a legal aid clinic that the health, HIV and gender justice advocacy organisation conducted at boma grounds in Kitgum town for eight days starting August 26, 2009.
The head of legal aid and community justice at UGANET, Grace Naiga, said that when they first learnt of the boy’s case, initial inquiries yielded facts which she described as wanting. She added that the boy was also already being victimised because of his HIV status.
“We found that his status of HIV positive is being used [against him] and it’s affecting everyone’s judgement. The people feel that he should not go back to the community because he could infect other children so already his status is fuelling violation of his human rights as a child and also as a person living with HIV,” she explained.
When the UGANET team first learnt of the case, they rushed to Kitgum Central Police Station to establish more facts. In an interview with the UGANET team, the Kitgum district Community Liaison Officer, Amina Jennifer Apwoyocan, said the boy had been charged with aggravated defilement.
“He is young but with the law, criminal responsibility begins at the age of 12, of which he is,” she said. “The law presumes that anybody who is of 12 years and above is criminally responsible for the act or omission that he has carried out or is carrying out.”
At the remand home, however, the minor told the UGANET team that he is 11 years old and will celebrate his 12th birthday on October 26. The contention over the boy’s age could throw another spanner in the works of an already complex matter, as that would mean he was below the age at which he can be held criminally responsible at the time the time he was arrested.
According to Apwoyocan, the boy’s case has already bridged new ground owing to the fact that is involves two minors. However, she adds, his HIV status is likely to take precedence in court.
“This is the first of its kind; juvenile to juvenile, child to child sex. But now here it’s the [HIV] status that overruns the [defilement allegation],” she said.
The boy’s mother, however, insists her son is innocent. She claims he is a victim of a feud between two neighbouring families that have not been on good terms for a long time. “There is a bad relationship between my family and the girl’s family and they are just trying to use my son to jeopardize our name,” she explained. “Even that day when they claim he defiled the girl, my son was not where the other children were playing. He was in a different place.”