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By Agwanda Saye
Regional lawyers have called for stringent enforcement of laws towards containing increasing criminal sexual offences against children in East Africa (EA).
The lawyers decried escalating cases of defilement and under age prostitution leading to a growing number of girls below 14 years old in public maternity wards in the region.
LSK Chairman Mr. Eric Mutua said that lack of prosecution of perpetrators and out of court resolution of criminal sexual offences against children aggravates the situation.
“We must strictly implement or draft stringent laws that would protect children from increasing cases of defilement and childhood pregnancies among others,” Mutua said.
The lawyers, magistrates and probation officers are attending a three day conference on Supporting Access to Justice for Children and Youth in East Africa at Enashipai Lodge, Naivasha.
The conference heard that children are increasingly dropping out of school to be used in cross border trade between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Other children have been infected with HIV/Aids following increased cases of childhood prostitution following involvement in fishing trade and mining in Uganda.
Tanganyika Law Society President Mr. Francis Stolla said that courts in East Africa are not strictly implementing existing sexual offences laws to protect children.
“Tanzanian law provides for up to 30 years in prison for criminals found guilty of defilement…Kenya has similar penalties,” Mr. Stolla said.
Ugandan Advocate Mr. Aaron Bessigye said that defilement cases in the country would attract imprisonment for life or death penalty.
“Ugandan law is strict on aggravated rape whereby the offenders infect their victims with HIV/Aids,” Mr. Bessigye said.
The lawyers said that reported cases of FGM are aggravated over lack of successful prosecution of perpetrators despite legal provisions on the same.
“Tanzanian law provides 15 years imprisonment for FGM perpetrators but the culprits are rarely arraigned in court,” Mr. Stolla said.
Mr. Bessigye said that Ugandan law provides 18 years imprisonment for FGM perpetrators but none is yet to be charged despite increased reported cases on the vice.
Magistrates and Probation Officers attending the conference heard that several village leaders were bribed not to report cases of child sexual offences and FGM.
“Sexual offences against children must never be settled out of court towards bringing the criminals to book,” Mutua said.