Kinango sub-county is adrift with violation on rights of children.
Last March a bizarre incident occurred at Mazola Sub-location in Puma Ward which has left residents dumfounded. A man tied up the hands of his two daughters aged five and seven years respectively; poured paraffin and set fire to the hands of the innocent minors.
Jawa Luphande was later to claim that he committed the inhumane act under the influence of alcohol. The mother of the two little angels, Mnyanzi Ruwa, was crestfallen and torn between whether to have her husband charged with assault and bid farewell to the marriage or accept what had happened and move on with the marriage. Coming up with a bold decision has remained a big headache for her.
But her brother, Alfred Ruwa did not take the matter lightly. He took his two nieces to hospital and reported the matter to Kinango police station. But till today, Alfred has not been able to get a P3 form to enable him seek justice for the two girls.
“I have been to the police station often but I’m told the officer who filled the P3 is on leave,” says Alfred, a teacher at Istiqama Secondary School in Kinango. In the absence of a duly filled P3 form, the suspect will walk free because the police have no evidence to charge him for what he allegedly did.
This is but an isolated case. Violations of children rights in Kinango are predominantly sexual. But the prevailing conspiracy of silence among the victims’ families has made the trend spread in the area like gospel.
In one primary school for example, in Puma Ward, Rehema (not her real name) has dropped out of school after conceiving a few months ago. She was in class seven at the time of becoming pregnant. Another under-age girl in the same school and class gave birth recently while another one who sat for KCPE last year did not manage to join form one this year because she just gave birth early in the year. This trend is replicated in all the seven wards making up Kinango Sub-county.
What is worrying is not that such incidents happen to such young girls who are ill-prepared to have a family and are denied the right to education; the apparent indifference that the community exhibits lends credence to the vice.
“There’s a growing fear of victimization of the victims and families either physically or through witchcraft,” says Blandiner Tatu, a community worker in Kinango Ward. Poverty she says, is a driving factor in having girls engage in sex at a tender age.
“Around age 14 is when girls start thinking that they’re beautiful and they need stuff to make them appreciate the feeling; hence their vulnerability to men who will give them small cash tokens to have sex with them,” says Tatu, a community library attendant in Kinango town.
According to David Jiti, a voluntary children officer (VCO) in Kinango sub-county, cases of defilement are rife in all the seven wards. “Every year we receive not less than ten cases of under-age girls who have been made pregnant by persons known to their families. But after reporting, the families of victim don’t make follow up,” says Jiti.
Jiti also reveal another challenge he faces.
“There are occasions where a suspect needs to be arrested but the police are having no means of transport,” he says. Kinango Police station has one vehicle which is not in good mechanical shape. At times when there is an urgent matter, the police borrow a vehicle from other government departments. “And at times there is no fuel and the person in need of the service is asked to fuel the vehicle,” says Jiti who also notes that most of the victims of sexual offences come from poor economic backgrounds and cannot afford to help the police fuel vehicles.
Consequently, such cases end up being resolved using alternative dispute resolution mechanisms at the family level between the family of the victim and that of the suspect.
At 15 years of age, Halima is a mother of a 6 months old baby girl. She dropped out of school at class five after conceiving last year. The person she claims to be the father of her child is a form four student at a local school. Halima’s father, a subordinate staff at a private firm in Mombasa is so bitter that his first born daughter is already a mother, uneducated with a baby whose father cannot only take care, but has not admitted liability.
“I’ve received very little support from the authorities to have the person who did this thing to my daughter punished,” says the father, whose name has been concealed to protect Halima. Halima was rescued by an organization taking care of young mothers a few months before she delivered and is currently being taken care of by the organization in a home situated in Diani Beach as the suspected culprit awaits to sit his final exams at a Kwale based school.
Early this year, the police told Halima’s family to help look for the boy and report to police so he can be charged in court. But recently, when a VCO handling Halima’s case reported to Kinango police that he had found out where the boy was (in a local boarding school), Kinango OCS Mary Wanyonyi reportedly told the VCO that arresting the boy in school could lead to students unrest in that school.
As a result of the absence of action taken against the culprits, girls aged less than 18 years have dropped out school after getting pregnant while others have been married off to the fellows who made them pregnant or any available suitor, for that matter.
According to the Sexual Offences Act section 8 (i) “A person who commits an act which causes penetration with a child is guilty of an offence termed defilement;” and that a person who defiles a child aged 11 or less shall “upon conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for life.”
This story has however captured cases of girls between the ages of 14 and 17 which are also catered for by this law. For instance, section 8 (iii) of the same act says thus: “A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child between the age of twelve and fifteen years is liable upon conviction imprisonment for a term not less than twenty years;” while if the same offence is committed against a child aged between 16 and 18 years, the culprit if convicted shall be jailed for not less than 15 years.
The act is also very clear on the punishment that should be administered to suspects who are below the age of 18: “Where the person charged with an offence under this Act is below the age of eighteen years, the court may upon conviction, sentence the accused person in accordance with the provisions of the Borstal Institutions Act and the Children’s Act.”
Despite the perceived harshness of the act, the accused persons have the opportunity for defence in court and the following are the details for defence: It is a defence to a charge under this section if: –
(a) it is proved that such child, deceived the accused person into believing that he or she was over the age of eighteen years at the time of the alleged commission of the offence; and
(b) The accused reasonably believed that the child was over the age of eighteen years. The belief referred to in subsection (b) is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps the accused person took to ascertain the age of the complainant.
The poor infrastructure in Kinango, inaccessible roads and inadequate medical facilities has made it difficult for survivors to access justice. Gabriel Barasa, a field coordinator of children rights with Kwale Human Rights Network admits that there is a big challenge in Kinango. “The starting point is to conduct a massive community awareness campaigns in Kinango and build the capacity of all players in children issues,” says Barasa adding that his organization is looking for a donor to help put up an office in Kinango to help address the menace.
The story of Kinango depicts it, as a place where the rule of law, as far as children rights are concerned, is absolutely absent.