KAMPALA, Uganda – The issue of teenage pregnancy reared its ugly head during the COVID-19 period. This was because of various reasons, many of which included early marriages facilitated by parents of young teenage girls, some of whom are out of school due to closure of learning institutions.
Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET) recognizes the shocking statistics that show that 42% of teenage pregnancies are unintended and termed as mistakes, as some of these girls have been raped and defiled by adults, and that one in four girls between the age of 15-19 gets pregnant in Uganda every day.
“Other girls are unfortunate enough to have been impregnated by their agemates who end up denying the responsibility of both fatherhood and marriage. Oftentimes, the girls hide the pregnancies out of fear. Most parents get so violent towards these girls, they punish them by beating them up which sometimes causes permanent damage like breaking a body part or even causing a miscarriage which might damage some body organs,” says Rhonah Babweteera, Head, Violence Against Women Prevention, UGANET.
Normally when adults get pregnant they plan on how delivery will be and the process. This is a different case with these young girls who may view it as a curse and an obstacle to their future so they opt to get rid of it. So despite the strict laws against abortion these girls end up opting for unsafe abortions which result into pregnancy complications and sometimes lead to death.
According to The New Vision, 1500 women die from unsafe abortions every year and an estimated 800 abortions happen in Uganda every year. These are serious health related issues that affect people permanently beginning with body damage and then later, mental problems.
Some of these girls have a hard time during and after the pregnancy. Some of them are not in good health conditions to give birth, others have their uterus too weak to carry a baby, and some of them get diseases like diabetes and pressure during pregnancy. This can result in loss of the baby, the young mother or both because of these difficulties.
“The stigma and discrimination these girls go through during this period leads them to mental break down. In some cases these girls may opt to commit suicide because of the feeling of rejection. They are afraid to live with others because of all the insults being thrown at them. Thousands of teenagers have gone through a lot during lockdown, that is to say forced pregnancies, mistreatment, being raped and getting pregnant. As a society we cannot sit and ignore it. We need to stand our ground and hear her cry of agony,” says Babweteera.
UGANET set a goal to combat teenage pregnancies. They have joined hands with different civil society organizations, including ICWEA, UNYPA, among others in campaigns against the problem including “Hear Her Cry” and “My Body is Not a Democracy”. The organization that fights for social justice calls upon law enforcers to decisively punish people involved in the violation of these young girls’ rights, and to intervene in making sure all the injustices being experienced by young girls are attended to.