Community perceptions underlying child marriage in Namanyonyi Sub-County, Mbale District in Eastern Uganda
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Background: This study sought to examine the socio-cultural perspectives, economic and religious perspectives underlying child marriage in Namayonyi Sub County in Mbale district given its high prevalence in the Eastern districts of Uganda. Methodology: An exploratory research qualitative approach was chosen with a total of 54 community members engaged in the study. Data was collected with six key informant interviews and two focus group discussions from each of the three parishes, totaling up to 48 primary participants. Findings: Socio-cultural perspectives that influence child marriage revolved around aspects of preservation of traditional culture of circumcision, guarding against sexual promiscuity, physical maturation of girls perceived as readiness for marriage as well as demand for grandchildren by old parents. Economic perspectives on the other hand pointed towards marriage as security from economic vulnerability as well as need to protect the most cherished asset, land and other inheritance to a specific family line. Among the religious perspectives, Islam allowed child marriage on grounds of marital purity while Christian religious leaders cited poor conformity to Christian religious teachings against child marriage. Conclusion: Nearly all perceptions supported child marriage basing on cultural and religious grounds. The high level of loyalty of members towards these two most important aspects of their life make them unable to disengage from the practice of child marriage and thus it continues to persist in the region. Recommendation: The government should put cultural and local leaders at the forefront of fighting child marriage through sensitization of the previously researched negative effects of the practice on the well-being of the children involved.