Bundibugyo district has passed a by law to curb the rampant cases of early marriages in the district. The bylaw comes at a time when the district is grappling with high school drop out of girls, caused by early marriages. Statistics at the district education department show that 56% of the girls in the district as young as 15 years have dropped out of school and have been married off to rich men by their parents.
The parents of the girls are offered goats and money. Last month, the gender and community development department carried out research which shows that 67% of parents were marrying off their children in return for dowry. The sub counties of Busaru, Babukwanga and Bundibugyo town council were cited as areas where early marriages are rampant.
The bylaw which was passed on Wednesday, by the district council, will be forwarded to the office of the Attorney General for ratification. According to the bylaw, parents who marry off their children, who are below 18 years, is liable to a fine of 100,000 shillings or a jail term of one month or both. The bylaw also calls for punishment of the man who has married the young girl. He is liable to pay 100,000 shs, jailed for one month or both.
Teachers who don’t report cases of school girls, who have been married off, will be accused of abetting the crime, and will be expected to pay a fine of 50,000 shillings. Gertrude Musiime, the district secretary gender and community development who tabled the bylaw says that, they were prompted to pass the bylaw following reports of increase on school drop outs.
Musiime says that at least four girls in each of the 32 primary schools in the district have dropped out of school and have been married off. She also says that when other girls see their friends being married off, they run away from their homes and the parents are not bothered, as long as they are given dowry. Ben Bikopo, the district speaker says that the bylaw will be translated into the local languages, lubwisi and lwamba and distributed to local leaders and households.
Fred Twesige, the head teacher Busaru Primary School welcomes the bylaw. Twesige says that in the past five months, more than five girls in the school have been married off by their parents. He however says that the bylaw should not just be on paper but be practical. Twesige says that several bylaws have been passed by the district, but never been implemented.