The Human Rights Watch has exposed the terrors that occur on the streets of Uganda every day. Homeless children are beaten and abused by police forces, local government officials and city authorities.
In a country where poverty rates are already very high, child abuse is a daily occurrence on the streets. Children are harassed, threatened, beaten, arrested, robbed and detained. They are accused of being criminals and scavengers. Some children, boys and girls, have even been raped by older boys and men, but these rarely get reported to the police.
There have been reports of police tying boys’ arms and legs and forcing them to lie under metal car seats, as well as being tied to motorbikes to be taken to police stations. Pepper spray has also been used on several street children.
It is estimated that there are 2.7 million orphans in Uganda. Additionally, a study by the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect estimated that 10,000 children live on the streets of Uganda. This number has increased by 70 percent since 1993.
These large numbers of street children make it difficult for cities to determine the real criminals. Instead of differentiating, authorities simply treat them all like they deserve to be punished.
The HRW report explains that many of the street children “fear the authorities and that police are a source of violence, not protection.”
In an attempt to minimize the problem, a free national child helpline was created about a month ago by Plan International. It receives around 1,500 calls each day from children and adults reporting various abuses seen around the country.
With the help of agencies like the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect, this problem can be fixed. The Ugandan street children need to be cared for, rather than beaten. The HRW report set forth a call for the Ugandan government to focus on improving the lives of street children and to prosecute those who abuse them.
- Hannah Cleveland