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This week, the Daily Nation published a disturbing and saddening story on how incest has penetrated some of our communities with devastating effects on its main victims — girls — whose lives are messed up by incestuous family members, including biological fathers.
The story from Vihiga County described how, in a recent instance, elders, in a bid to “protect” and “cleanse” their society from an “imminent curse” of harbouring products of incestuous situations, literally threw out some six babies from the community.
The babies, according to reporter Derick Luvega, were aged one to three months. Their mothers, mostly defiled minors, are ostracised along their offspring with the trauma and psychological torture in tow.
These children grow up already condemned to broken lives after such a rejection by family and community. Besides, the devastation that this causes the young mothers is hardly bearable as the perpetrators — their own family members — destroy their fledgling lives and, in most cases, get away with it as families, in their ignorant wickedness, hide in tradition and ‘morality’ when the dark secrets become public.
Lucky little ones
Thankfully, in the Vihiga case, the innocent little ones escaped being thrown into the forest to be devoured by wild animals and were lucky to not get killed to 'save the community from the fury of the gods' or even abandoned in the streets to die.
The intervention of the local Children Office in the sub-county came in handy as Senior Magistrate Rose Ndombi placed them in the safety of a children’s shelter. This means they may never know or experience life in a ‘normal’ family set-up.
Crimes of incest appear to be on the increase in the country — if media reports are anything to go by. Members of the National Shelters Network, a grouping of Kenyans who provide rescue and referral services to victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), have shocking tales to tell.
The 51 operators of safe houses across the country have tens of minors and teenagers — most of them mothers, some only nine years old — defiled, brutalised and destroyed by family members, including fathers, people who should be taking care of them. A shelter in Nyanza, for instance, in April alone gave refugee to 76 teenagers — all victims of incest.
Escalation of crimes
This is just a fraction of the extent of abuse and neglect of children committed from the family level to institutions and the society in general, with the crimes and perpetrators treated casually. The consequence of this casualness is escalation of the crimes.
The harrowing revelation of a suspected serial killer and paedophile who has been on the prowl since 2018, when he ran away from justice upon defiling two minors in Kibwezi, Makueni County, is not only shocking but raises concern on how lightly SGBV cases are treated. The suspect, despite having a warrant of arrest on his head for three years, sauntered on the streets and villages of Moi’s Bridge in Uasin Gishu County, allegedly defiling and killing minors unabated.
It was unsettling, unnerving, upsetting and scary to watch on television as the suspected serial killer took Directorate of Criminal Investigations detectives where he claimed to have committed the chilling crimes against the girls whose ages the officers say ranged from 10 to 15 years.
It is perturbing that such a beast was for so long on the run brutalising, defiling and murdering at least five (from his claims) since December 2019 to last month, within a community and around people who knew him and exactly what he was about but opted to withhold the information. His arrest came hot on heels of (an)other serial killer(s) that police are pursuing for the murder of 12 children!
These shocking and revolting crimes against children and those being committed under the cover of family secrets in homes should send an urgent message on the need to take action as community, institutions and at both levels of government, including within the political leadership.
ODM party leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga was on point in his statement on Monday in which he challenged Kenyans “to speak out loudly’’ against the unacceptable slaughter of children, violence against girls and women which “has gone on for too long”.
The National Police Service and the Judiciary must also assure Kenyans that they are safe and justice will be swiftly served.
Ms Rugene is a consulting editor and founder, The Woman’s Newsroom Foundation. firstname.lastname@example.org @nrugene