Wonders and mysteries never end in Uganda. If you are someone who enjoys mysteries, then your Uganda safari should include a visit to this mysterious destination that can blow your mind. A boat ride or a dugout canoe on Lake Bunyonyi will lead you to the mysterious Punishment Island locally known as “Akampene Island”.
This place is known as a punishment island because it was where girls who would get pregnant before marriage would be left to ostensibly die by themselves without water, food or any help. Traditionally, getting Pregnant before marriage was seen as a shame and embarrassment to the family, hence to remove the shame the victims have to be harshly punished so that other girls learn lessons. But the question that would linger in someone’s mind is “what about the men that make the girls pregnant? Aren’t they guilty too? It is weird that in some communities in Uganda, girls that were not virgins would be returned to their parents’ homes and dowry be returned to the man. Or better still, less bride price would be paid for girls that were not virgins and this still happens in some societies in Uganda.
The Bakiga who are the inhabitants of the region occupy the areas of South-western Uganda and culturally a girl was supposed to get pregnant only after marriage. Those that would do a mistake of being pregnant before marriage deserved to die because the price of a virgin is more livestock. Whereas other families took them to the Akampene Island, others instead married them off without the man paying any bride price.
The only things you will find at the Island are two trees with one long dead and the other one in a protracted process and surrounded by a dense tangle of reed and tall grass but can always be visited while on safaris in Uganda. Whereas the Punishment Island is deserted, the surrounding Islands are busier with several comfortable tourist Resorts and thriving trees. Could nature be punishing the Punishment Island?
When you visit Lake Bunyonyi, ask to be taken to this Island and get the chance to meet one of the survivors called Ms. Mauda Kyitaragabirwe who was abandoned on the Island at the age of 12 years. She stayed for four nights without food and water until was rescued on the fifth day by a random fisherman who later loved and married her. It was just her luck because most of the girls died as most of them didn’t know how to swim. They had only two options, to either drown or wait to die at the Island from thirst, hunger and extreme cold. However, the practice still continued after the arrival of the Missionaries and Colonialists in the 19th Century because of the remoteness of the area.
Besides the Akampene Island, the Kisiizi waterfalls within present day Rukungiri district used to be another punishment site for unmarried pregnant girls. This practice ended when one of the victims dragged her brother with her hence the end of the inhuman practice.
In conclusion, the Punishment Island is one of the must-see places within Lake Bunyonyi because you will learn about how unmarried pregnant girls in the Bakiga community were punished by their families and members of the society.