An Overview of The 2021 Study on Child Marriage and Adolescent Pregnancy in Uganda

The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the information gathered, shows that the pandemic increased the number of cases in relation to both child marriage and teenage pregnancies. This was due to the restriction of movement, school closures, and lockdown imposed in different areas that gave teenagers more idle time, leading them to explore their curiosities and often get themselves pregnant. However, respondents also indicated they were unaware of relief and support systems available to them. Although it is apparent that there is a law labelling these issues “criminal”, the implementation of the law should be subjected to further improvement. It is notable that most teenagers become pregnant due to non-consensual sexual intercourse which constitutes “rape of a minor”.

Answers by respondents about child marriage and associated risks indicate that community members are directly or indirectly aware of the scale of the phenomenon/problem. Therefore, when asked about the appropriate age for marriage, their estimates were ideal though at odds with practice on the ground. The majority of respondents replied saying that the appropriate age for marriage is at least 24 for boys and 20 for girls. Child marriage is more common in rural areas where men prefer young and uneducated women or those who receive only a little bit of education. Educated women are perceived by some to pose a threat or, as someone said, “An open wife would undermine the stability of the family” while younger wives are easier to manage and control.

The lack of quality education for girls combined with the lack of jobs, training and qualification opportunities that improve women’s skills and raise their productivity, economic capacities and subsequently their status within their families deepens the already entrenched community traditions in favour of child marriage for economic ends. Such practices stem from the unwavering social norms and beliefs of the community members who applaud and support marrying girls early, claiming that unless married they would continue to pose a burden on their families and may put their families reputation at the stake.

When asked why some families marry off their daughters early, they cited poverty and the need for money, greed by fathers or exchange marriage as the main reasons. Additional social factors mentioned were lack of awareness, girls reaching puberty and chastity. These justifications hide negative social norms, negative attitudes an debasement of women within families who value women for their reproductive roles only. Often, girls are not consulted before marriage and all they can do is obey orders from their male relatives, such as fathers or brothers, cousins, uncles or grandfathers, who decide for them.