(WOMENSENEWS)–My sister Maureen Prisca was forced to marry an old man who was infected with HIV. She was 17 years old and the man was 42.
My parents forced my sister to marry the man because he was very wealthy and could pay a large dowry. A dowry is money or things like cattle or land given to a girl’s parents when she marries a man. My sister refused to marry the man but my parents insisted. A few days later, the night of the wedding, my sister escaped from the man’s home and hid in the forest.
It was dark and my sister was far from the road when she saw a wild dog. She tried to run but tripped and was attacked by the dog. She screamed for help and a local boy found her and scared away the dog. By that time my sister’s leg had been seriously damaged by the animal and she needed to be taken to the hospital.
My sister is now unable to walk and remains at home doing domestic chores. She often advises us to stay in school and not to marry young. Our father blames himself for my sister’s injuries and is ashamed that he had forced her to marry. My sister and father used to have such a good relationship but now they barely speak to each other.
One in every two girls in Uganda is married before the age of 18, according to Girls Not Brides. This needs to stop. Parents need to stop using their daughters in Uganda as items of trade and instead leave us to concentrate on our books.