My teacher at Makerere University, Dr Sallie Simba Kayunga, is reported in the media arguing for the reduction of the age of maturity to 16 years. Basing his argument on the voting age, he asserts that by age 16, one has completed O-Level, thus mature enough to make an informed decision. Even if we kept the argument to the one aspect of voting which Dr Kayunga raises, which 16-year-old would resist the lure of our corrupt politics and vote following their rationality and conscience? It is an open secret that our politics and political decisions are largely influenced and driven by basic survival, which my grandma calls kabinenda (politics of the stomach).
Dr Kayunga must be aware of the high and mighty in this beloved Pearl, who if daybreak were to happen earlier than usual, would be caught red-handed conducting kabinenda. And these cut across: from business 'tycoons' to academicians and intellectuals; cultural leaders to religious leaders; illiterate peasants to exposed elites. To these, add innocent 16-year-old adolescents and you have a country on a self-destruction roller-coaster. Moreover, going by our education drop-out rates, for every one 16-year-old who completes O-Level, 9.5 dropped out along the long way since Primary One. Thus the 'informed' O-Leavers would be less than 10 per cent of those deemed mature enough to vote. Beyond voting age, maturity age has more far-reaching implications. Legally, it renders one an adult in all spheres of life, thus able to take decisions and conduct their life unhindered, with no need to seek authorisation, let alone guidance, from adults.
In our current delicate situation of a social fabric breakdown, declaring 16-year-old adolescents adults would be a recipe for further disaster.
Already despite the heavy penalty against defilement, it is rampant all-over the country. What will happen if tomorrow age of consent comes to 16 years? Shall we not end up with families of children producing children, if not single-mother children producing children?
Even medically, it is an established bitter reality that most women suffering fistula is due to under-age child-bearing.
Even exploiters seeking cheap labour would cash in on this.
Under our current laws, children under 18 years who commit offences are taken in for rehabilitations as opposed to conventional imprisonment.
Declaring them adults at 16 would mean conventional incarceration, with its attendant problems and challenges already existing among even adult prisoners. This is not to mention taking alcohol, one of the major areas where Uganda scores high in global rankings!
Dr Kayunga may find it worth his time to research on what happened to immediate post-apartheid South Africa when the maturity age was deliberately put at 16 years.
Contrary to Dr Kayunga's assertion, some pundits do argue that we instead should revise the maturity age to 23, from the current 18. This school argues that
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