KAMPALA, Uganda, Dec 15 – A Ugandan maid was jailed for four years Monday for abusing a toddler in a case that shocked the country after a graphic video of the assault was made public.
The 22-year-old maid, Jolly Tumuhiirwe, originally pleaded guilty last week to torture, but later the charge was reduced to abuse, to which she also pleaded guilty to on Friday.
Chief Magistrate Lillian Buchan told Tumuhiirwe she had committed an “unjustifiable and inexcusable” crime.
She gave her a four-year sentence due to the “ruthlessness exhibited” on an “innocent, helpless child”.
Worried parents, who installed a hidden camera to film the situation when they were at work, were shocked to see the footage showing the maid throwing their 18-month-old daughter to the floor.
Tumuhiirwe is seen trying to force feed the child, before slapping her hard. After the girl vomits, the maid throws her facedown on to a hard floor, then hits her with a torch on the bottom.
She then kicks the child’s face and stomach before putting her entire weight on the girl’s back, and then drags her out of the room, apparently unconscious.
The video has been seen or shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media.
Tumuhiirwe on Monday remained apparently emotionless as her sentence was handed down in a court in Kampala.
– ‘Long-term psychological consequences’ –
Ugandan newspapers called the footage “spine-chilling” and “very disturbing”.
The child was left bruised and shaken. The court was packed with family members of the toddler, as well as journalists.
The child’s mother, Angela Mbabazi, broke down outside the court after sentencing, putting her hands over her face.
Her husband, Eric Kamanzi, 32, told reporters the couple had shared the video with other parents “so they can take a lesson from it”.
The case has gathered wide attention in Uganda, where many middle class parents hire maids to look after their children. Maids in Uganda are often poorly paid, and regularly live in the houses where they work.
“It’s not for us to decide the punishment for what she committed,” Kamanzi said. “We hope this has set an example for other maids out there, that you can’t just go to someone’s house and torture their baby and expect to walk out.”
Family member Rose Zimulinda said that the child, Arnella, was physically well, but that they would have to address her “long-term psychological consequences as they come”.
She said she welcomed the sentence.
“We hope that these four years will help her to reform and come back and be a useful person to society, because she’s still young, and be a mother,” Zimulinda said.
The UN children’s agency chief in Uganda has condemned the abuse.
“The video of this baby being beaten is shocking,” UNICEF head Aida Girma said. “Any such act of abuse and violence against children is completely unacceptable.”