For a very long time, it has been a case of men jailed for defiling girls, as the law ignored the women who abuse boys. In a case of prey turning on its predator, now, women can be successfully for sleeping with underage boys.
Thirty-year-old Sarah Nekesa from Mutungo, a Kampala subrub, will spend the next seven years of her life in prison. On Christmas eve, Entebbe chief magistrate’s court found her guilty of defiling a 16-year-old boy she employed as a casual worker. The self-employed woman goes down in the records of Uganda’s court history as one of the few women to be convicted for defilement.
In a country where the law has always targeted only men who indulge in sex with girls below the consent age of 18, Nekesa’s sentence was received with more surprise than concern from various circles.
From public discussions and feedback both in main stream media and social networking websites, Twitter and facebook, a good number of Ugandans expressed ignorance about the revised Penal Code Act 2007, section 129 (i).
Some actually criticised it claiming, “most of these boys go to old women willingly and there’s mutual benefit in those relationships.”
“Unlike men who mainly use the girls to their selfish sexual advantage, the boys go in willingly to survive on those old women. Morally, it might be wrong but those are survival instincts set by our society,” says Enock Wangubo, a student at Makerere University’s School of Law. By and large, regardless of the arguments and counter arguments, this law may raise in some circles, the truth of the matter is that it is already starting to bite.
Innocent Ndiko Ngobi, a lawyer with Ndiko Ngobi and Co. Advocates in Kampala, stresses the fact that, “the law is very clear; and ignorance has never been a weapon of defence.” Calling the amendment of the law long over-due, Ndiko says, “the law wasn’t fair to the boy child. Boys were getting defiled but nothing was happening to the perpetrators. All I can say as a mother and lawyer is that, it is a good law.”
On why it took the country decades to come up with the law, the advocate attributes the delay to, “the loopholes of affirmative action which in many ways tends to marginalise the boy child.”
She, however, passionately raises the core question of awareness among the masses. Whether women out there are now aware of the risk of going to jail for defiling boys, let alone the boys themselves about the new law, remains a serious challenge.
Teenagers speak out
Indeed, majority of the teenagers this reporter spoke to were naïve about the new law, despite the fact that it was enacted in 2007.
“You mean a woman can be arrested and jailed for defilement? Since when?” asked Collins Muhumuza, 18, in his senior six vacation.
“I personally think the NGOs should go to the grassroots and sensitise the boys about their rights. Even if it means going down to schools,” says Sarah Alebo, a mother of four in Kamwokya. Pastor Solomon Male, the founder of Arising for Christ Ministries, says the new law will fill moral gaps the old one ignored.
“We have received children coming for counselling after aunties, house-helps and women they trusted as relatives and role models sexually abusing them,” he says. Quoting confidential cases of boys infected with HIV by such women, the self-confessed moral defender is optimistic the new law will play a deterrent role as women will now have to think twice as their “freedom” is no more.
“My only prayer and wish is that people are sensitised about the law so that the sugar mummies also go to jail,” says Samuel Muchake, a parent and teacher at Kiira College, Butiki.
According to the 2010 annual crime report published by the Uganda Police Force, defilement tops the list of sexual offences. Intriguingly though, its Family and Child Protection Unit has no recent records of women defilers. Again the issue of awareness can be attributed to this.
Vincent Sekatte, the Deputy Police spokesperson, says, “We are sensitising the masses through the community policing programme and the child protection unit. As police, we are in full support of the law because it now applies to all sexual offenders regardless of their sexual orientation.”