Sexual harassment of women and girls in the mines is threatening their livelihoods. More unemployed women and girls flock the mines to earn a living from the peripherals of the main mining activities especially in the gold mines of Mubende, Namayingo, Buhweju and Karamoja.
Sylvia Nakirunda a GRA community monitor in Mubende district says the high unemployment of girls in the gold mines in Mubende has prompted men to take advantage of their vulnerability to lure them into sex.
“I overheard girls talking about how men treat them in the mines. I contacted one of the girls who told me that when they buy the soil which they wash to get gold, many times they do not find anything. If they do not find gold, they must find a way of surviving and hence end up with men who take advantage of them,” says Nakirunda.
She says that the girls take alcohol and drugs to endure the situation they are put through when the men pounce on them.
“This has turned into a habit in the mines, some girls have turned to prostitution as a source of money. Because men look after them, they are forced into sex,” Nakirunda adds
She says that as a community monitor she does not know how to help the girls because while they want a better life, they do not want to leave the mines.
International Labour Organisation puts the number of child labourers at 15,000 in artisanal gold mining in Uganda. They face all forms of physical, psychological and sexual abuse, often working in dangerous conditions that put their lives at health risks like HIV and effects of hazardous substances like mercury.
Because the business is unchecked and money is readily available, this makes it difficult for authorities to check on this sexual exploitation when girls pose as mine workers.