My baby, my sibling: The plight of girls defiled by their fathers


The habit of fathers defiling and impregnating their daughters is growing rapidly among communities in Bura Constituency, leaving children traumatised.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Heavy thoughts run through her mind, questions to which she has found no answers as she struggles to raise a child sired by its father.

She is uncertain whether to consider this child her baby or her sibling.

She looks at her mother and sees a mum, but could also be a co-wife. These circumstances make her burst into tears, two years after giving birth to the baby.

Asha Awadh (real name changed to protect her identity), 18, was repeatedly defiled by her father two years ago before he fled and left her pregnant.

"It started with small favours and defending me from my mother's punishment. I thought it was normal fatherly love," she said.

What she thought was fatherly love had a hidden agenda as it grew from gifts to sharing a sleeping place.

The father would sneak her out at night and take her out for snacks and drinks. One night, when the mother had travelled for a funeral, he defiled her.

"It was a terrible experience that night, then he gave me Sh1,200 and told me to keep quiet about it. I told my aunt but she dismissed me," she said.

Her mother did not believe her either, which gave the father more freedom to repeatedly defile her and force her to take emergency contraceptive pills.

This went on for three months, until one afternoon her mother, suspicious, pretended to be travelling, only to set a trap to catch her husband in the act.

"At that point, my mother believed me, but it was too late because I was already pregnant with my father's child. He forced me to frame another boy by saying that he (the boy) forced me to sleep with him," she said.

This led to her dropping out of school, as the shame was overwhelming and she had become the talk of the village.

Despite her support from her mother, she is still traumatised and says she has contemplated suicide on several occasions.

"I wanted an abortion when I was three months pregnant, but my mother refused. I never understood why and it pains me," she said.

A similar situation is faced by Salma Fateh (not her real name), 17, who is still waiting for justice against her father for defiling her last year.

Her mother has been her pillar of support and continues to encourage her to go to school.

However, her baby is kept far away from her lest she harm it.

"I don't want to see him, I shouldn't have kept the baby. I was forced to and it brings back very bad memories," she said.

Heartbroken and disturbed by what has happened to her daughter, the mother tries to put on a brave face.

She has to fight against the depressing narratives about her daughter and manage conversations that focus only on her well-being.

"I am her mother, if I walk around with drooping shoulders, my daughter will kill herself. I have to be strong for her," she says.

It is not an easy fight, as society blames her for poor parenting.

But she remains hopeful that the day will come when, as a family, they will overcome the cloud of darkness that hangs over their home.

It is a habit that is growing fast among communities in Bura Constituency, leaving children traumatised.

Chewele Location Chief Abdi Hajir notes that cases of parents defiling their children are rampant and the survivors are mentally disturbed.

"The biggest gap we face is access to justice and counselling services for the survivors and their parents, I wish we could get them help," he said.

He fears that the habit could lead to a mentally disturbed generation unless urgent action is taken.

Faten Hassan, human rights defender and coordinator of the Chana Chena organisation notes that lack of knowledge and access to justice contributes to the increase in such cases.

"You realise that every year we have more than five cases of parents preying on their children, and they happen in remote areas where people have no access to police stations or any kind of counselling," he said.

Despite the organisation's efforts to sensitise communities on sexual gender-based issues and penalties, there is still a gap that calls for more intervention.

"Sexual gender-based cases are increasing every year in this county, it is high time the government builds a rescue centre for such children where they can also get free counselling," he said.