There was a lot of chatter on the floor of Parliament on Wednesday when the Deputy Speaker, Ms Among, sternly warned male legislators, for allegedly siring children outside wedlock.
Ms Among issued the warning during a heated plenary session in which lawmakers debated Vice President Jessica Alupo’s statement.
The statement was tagged to the national campaign against defilement, early marriages and failed parenthood.
She revealed that several women throng her office and precincts of Parliament with children, forcing her to offer counselling sessions.
“I am tired of counselling women who come here (to Parliament) with children. It is the MPs who impregnate these girls and they abandon them. Just imagine this girl is your kid, daughter, and someone irresponsibly impregnates and does not take care [of her],” Ms Among fumed.
She added: “I have [previously] said that if you are not responsible, go and conduct a DNA [test] and free yourself. Otherwise, we don’t want to shame or mention your names.”
The sensitive matter was first raised by Ms Sarah Opendi. The Tororo District Woman MP, who also doubles as the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association chairperson (UWOPA), lifted the lid when she shared a story of a young mother who recently went to Parliament claiming that she had been impregnated by a male legislator.
“Today (on Wednesday), I was informed of a young mother that came here with a [toddler]. The father is one of us here and he has failed to take responsibility,” Ms Opendi said.
The Tororo Woman MP’s remark triggered a heated exchange that prompted Ms Among to dangle a ‘name and shame’ threat. Among the other legislators who joined the heated discussion on the floor was Mr Mathias Mpuuga, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP), who stated he was proud that such issues were being discussed in the House.
“We debate a lot of core stuff in this House of Parliament. I am very proud that members have had enough time to discuss this subject matter,” he said, adding, “Some of us come from extremely conservative communities where sexuality and pertinent challenges are never discussed, therefore we lose sight.”
Ms Cecilia Atim Ogwal, the Dokolo Woman MP (FDC), said it was important to face such harsh truths as a country.
She said: “Do I need the President to talk and tell me that I must take care of my child? Do I need the vice president to tell me that as a man, Member of Parliament, I should not sleep with a child? These are realities we have to face as Ugandans.”
Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, the NUP spokesperson who doubles as Nakawa Division West MP, called for self-control among men.
His comments came after Ms Among said girls should be encouraged to “dress in a decent way” such that they don’t easily fall prey to men with ill intentions.
“I am a father to a daughter and as my little girl grows up, I will encourage her to dress decently. However, we should also encourage men to have self-control. There should be no excuse that a man defiled a girl simply because she put on a miniskirt,” Mr Ssenyonyi said.
Ms Sarah Mateke Nyirabashitsi, the state minister for Youth and Children Affairs, urged MPs to be responsible parents.
Ms Alupo said the contributions (from legislators) are in the spirit of owning and having collective responsibility on pertinent matters.
“I have liked the way colleagues have demonstrated that the matter before us is not about accusations and counter-accusations but one that requires solutions from all of us, ” she said.
Deputy Speaker Among highlighted the need for counselling of the affected girl and also mentorship for boys as a means of dealing with the issue.