- Alur Kingdom is also currently pushing for the ban of communal sleeping, with the kingdom premier admitting that a number of young men who sleep together in these small huts commonly known as “Ubiru” are not relatives who may end up taking advantage of young girls who also sleep together in other nearby houses including impregnating them
- The practice involves the girls sleeping with their fellow girls in one hut, the boys also sleep alone whereas there are also few cases of intersex mix up
- The Alur traditional culture also recognizes that any male person who reaches the age of 18 years should live an independent life and should not be a regular dependent on others
By Ronald Orachwun
Nebbi- Cultural leaders in Alur Kingdom and Karamoja Elders Association KEA have jointly called for a ban on communal sleeping especially among the youth of marriage age.
Communal sleeping is a common sight among the Alur and the Karamojong people, where youth from different families between the ages of 5-30 years converge and sleep together in one hut, a cultural practice that has reportedly aided the spread of the HIV/AIDS scourge.
Mr Lopus Lodia, an elder from Losogot village in Moroto district in Karamoja Sub region says some of the teens especially girls sleep in groups of up to ten in small huts commonly known as “Manyatta” adding that a number of these girls have randomly been raped by men.
Mr Lodia says some men end up sleeping with other girls after finding them in the same room at night after being engaged to a specific girl who sleeps in the same house.
He says at least three girls in his village have reportedly contracted HIV from one man who took advantage of their communal sleeping.
More than ten girls have also been infected with HIV between 2017 and 2018 due to communal sleeping, with Kotido alone recording four incidences in Rengen and Panyangara Sub Counties and Kotido Town Council in Kotido district where four sisters were infected by one man, according to information obtained from Mr Tom Etii, the Coordinator Uganda AIDS Commission office in Karamoja sub region.
Mr Etii however says most of the girls fear to report cases of sexual violence against them to authorities or even seek medical attention once they are raped.
Mr Paul Abul, a member of the Karamoja Elders’ Association KEA says: “We have just realized that the practice of communal sleeping is not doing any good thing in the community and its better if we do away with it,” he said in an exclusive interview.
According to information from the August 2016 to March 2017 Uganda Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (UPHIA), Karamoja sub region is currently battling a 3.4 per cent HIV/AIDS prevalence rate, a figure that has continued to worry local leaders.
The Uganda Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (UPHIA) is “household-based national survey to assess the progress of Uganda’s national HIV response.”
The 2006 Uganda national culture policy states that traditional communities are closely knit units, with their social, political and economic organization revolving around the family, clan and the institution of the traditional leader, while their daily activities are intrinsically linked to and determined by their cultures.
The Alur Kingdom Prime minister Mr Vincent Ochaya Orach says besides being promoted for security reasons, the practice also promotes unity, harmony, a sense of belonging and togetherness among cultural practitioners.
“There is no doubt that this practice promotes unity and we have treasured it here in Alur Kingdom for a long time since the time of our forefather Gipir. At one time we used it to woe investors in Alur Kingdom due to the hospitality portrayed by our people. That is what culture is supposed to do. But I must also confess that this practice has become a cultural nuisance. It has become so fake that instead of doing what it is meant for, it is making our young generation to develop a lot of immoral aspects and we as a respectable Alur monarchy fully recognized by the constitution will not allow it to continue.”
A 15-year-old Alice (not real name), a resident of Jukia Hill Ward Nebbi Municipality Nebbi district got pregnant and was also infected with HIV/AIDS by a man little known in the community, thereby leading to her drop out from school in Primary five as a result of the communal sleeping.
Mr Ochaya says the boys of today are not like the boys of yesterday. He says a number of young men in the kingdom are living a borrowed life by thinking that somebody will continue to house them without thinking of building a house of their own thereby promoting laziness among them.
Data from the Health department Nebbi district shows that the HIV prevalence rate in the district has hit 7.2 per cent up from 2.4 percent in 2006.
HIV/AIDS activists attribute this increasing trend to reckless behaviors being led by the youth.
Dr Jakor Oryema, the Nebbi District Health Officer attributes the increase in HIV infections to the failure by government and HIV/AIDS agencies to target youths and adolescents because they are the most sexually active in the district.
Ms Sarah Piracel, who is living with HIV says the infection rate should have come down but many young people are engaged in risky behavior, appealing to government to ban all avenues such as discos which she says are spoiling young people.
Similarly the UPHIA survey conducted by Ministry of Health also shows that among young adults, the HIV/AIDS prevalence is almost four times higher among females than males aged 15 to 19 and 20 to 24. HIV prevalence is nearly three times higher in men and women aged 20-24 compared to those aged 15-19.