What you need to know:
- I Can Fly Rescue Centre in Nyamasare village in Uriri Sub-county, Migori, currently hosts 76 girls who have fled from sexual escapades by randy relatives.
- 11-year-old Lucy* was defiled by her father.
- Liza*, a Form Two student at a secondary school in Machakos County, was defiled by her step-father.
- Judy Auma* was not lucky because she got pregnant in the process.
- Despite the rescue efforts, some victims end up being compromised to withdraw the cases.
The young girl is apprehensive, the February 15, incident still fresh in her mind – it is as if it occurred yesterday. The 11-year-old has been at a rescue centre for the last one month after her father defiled her.
When we visit the I Can Fly Rescue Centre in Nyamasare village in Uriri Sub-county, we meet the young Lucy Esther* who recounts the ordeal that saw her end up at the centre, which currently hosts 76 girls who have fled from sexual escapades by randy relatives.
Whenever her mother retired to bed, her father would stay behind pretending to watch TV, which was in the living room where Lucy and her siblings slept, she says. He would then lie by her side and touch her indecently.
This went on for days before he eventually started defiling her and warning her never to tell her mother. After a while, Lucy felt distraught and wrote a letter to her mother telling her what had been going on.
“I wrote the letter on a Tuesday night and left it under her pillow before I left for school the following day. We were revising for our end term exams so I did not go home for lunch. When I came back in the evening, she asked whether what I had written was true,” explains the Class Six pupil at a school in Rongo Sub-county.
“She confronted my father who got mad at me. He even threatened me with dire consequences if I did not denounce the contents of my letter,” she adds.
Elder sister defiled
Lucy went back to school the following day and confided in one of her teachers who took her to Kamagambo Police Station to record a statement.
The father was later arrested.
“It was after the arrest of my father that I learnt that he was also defiling my elder sister who is in secondary school,” young Lucy says with a forlorn face.
Through the help of Kamagambo OCS and her teachers, Lucy ended up at the rescue centre.
“It is my wish that justice prevails. I won’t mind even if he spends the rest of his life behind bars,” says the girl who aspires to be a teacher.
For Liza*, a Form Two student at a secondary school in Machakos County, her perception of male relatives totally changed after she was defiled by a man she called ‘dad’, her step-father.
Her mother remarried following the death of her biological father in 2014.
“Initially our new dad appeared caring and was nice to us. However, he gradually started changing and could often go out to drink and come back home late after we had slept, beat us up. In most cases, we ended up spending cold nights in the streets of Thika town where we lived,” she tells nation.africa.
“My siblings and I were slowly drifting to street life. One day, he came home drunk, found me alone and forced himself on me. I tried to scream but he was too strong for me,” she recounts.
The 16-year-old says the incident traumatised her so much that she feared sharing it with anyone.
“I wanted to report to my mother but unfortunately, she never came back home that day. We later received reports that she was involved in an accident and hospitalised.”
To date, they are unsure of their mother's whereabouts.
Crestfallen, her siblings scattered in the streets, while she escaped to her grandmother’s place in Migori County.
The two girls paint a grim picture of the harrowing experiences of 76 teenage girls at the centre, who have suffered sexual and gender-based violence at the hands of relatives. Some of them are as young as nine years.
While a few are victims of forced marriages and female genital mutilation, majority are defilement victims.
Others like Judy Auma* was not lucky because she got pregnant in the process. The 14-year-old was defiled by her biological father, a boda boda operator in Migori town.
“It was never my wish to get pregnant at this tender age, I always break down when I remember the ordeal,” Judy says.
Gladwell Wanjiru, founder and director of I can Fly Founder, the community-based organisation that manages the rescue centre, says they have partnered with law enforcers to prosecute the perpetrators and ensure justice is served to the victims.
Ms Wanjiru a rape victim, who is still bitter with her uncle who defiled and impregnated her at a tender age, says she started the initiative out of empathy and understanding for the victims.
“Most of the girls here are traumatised, so we focus on psycho-social support. We also provide them with basics, since it is not recommended to repatriate them to their homes when the cases are still on,” she says.
She is, however, concerned that despite the rescue efforts, some victims end up being compromised to withdraw the cases, a move that has seen many cases flop.
“Currently, I have 26 active cases in court. Serving justice to the minors has, however, been an uphill task as relatives opt to withdraw the cases. In some instances, the girls are coached to recant their testimonies,” Ms Wanjiru notes.
She says that of the many cases taken to court, only eight have been successfully prosecuted and perpetrators sentenced to serve jail terms.
Available data reveals alarming statistics that have placed the girl-child under siege, even as authorities heighten measures to clump teenage pregnancies.
The latest Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) indicates that Narok County has the highest burden of teenage pregnancies and motherhood in Kenya.
Other counties on the spotlight include Homa Bay (33 per cent), Kitui (36 per cent), Migori County (30 per cent), West Pokot (29 per cent) Tana River and Nyamira counties (28 per cent) and Samburu (26 per cent).
Nation.africa has also established alarming cases of teen mothers in Uriri Sub-county. Sources reveal that the area that boasts of vast swathes of land under sugarcane plantations, provides a haven for illicit and unprotected sex.
Caren Achieng’ a student at a local secondary school fervently dreamt of becoming a doctor. However, a request for Sh200 from her uncle to buy sanitary towels shattered her dream.
The 16-year-old now juggles between school and nursing her one-year-old son after she was defiled by an uncle, who has since disappeared after the pregnancy became noticeable.
What pains her much is that her parents have arbitrated locally and are colluding to hide the defiler.
“Nobody wants to talk about the matter, I’m left on my own and I leave everything to God. My biggest worry is whether I will actualise my dream since things get harder each day,” she says.
Caleb Ouma from Suna East Sub-county is a troubled father. He no longer goes to work and spends most of his time caring for his one-year-old grandson after his 13-year-old daughter was defiled and by his 33-year-old step-son.
“After receiving the report of my daughter’s condition from my wife, I sat her down and in a shocking revelation, she said my brother’s son was responsible for the pregnancy. I was pained since the man is married with kids,” says Mr Ouma.
His brother, however, rubbished the claims saying the son was maliciously being accused.
In the Luo tradition, incest is an abominable act. The perpetrator is supposed to be thrown into a seven-year exile as explained by the chairman of the Luo Council of Elders Mzee Nandiko Ongadi.
However, in modern society, such cases are discussed in hushed tones, owing to shame and family reputation.
Rongo Sub-county children’s officer Mr David Magogo says his office faces challenges while handling defilement, rape and incest cases because many parents are compromised.
Most of the defilement cases are reported by teachers after they discover that the student is pregnant, sometimes six months after the incident happened, making it hard to pursue the suspects, some of whom choose to disappear.
“Some parents report defilement cases when their daughters are already pregnant and this gives my office a hard time to pursue the culprit. We are forced to wait until the baby is born for a DNA test to ascertain evidence,” he says.
Migori County commissioner Mr Boaz Cherutich, however, notes that guardians are the major stumbling block in the quest for justice as they fail to appear in court or even seek out of court settlement.
Mr Cherutich says the complainants end up getting compromised and in some cases, reports are only made after failed agreements in Kangaroo courts.
“We usually make arrests but in most cases, victims’ parents are reluctant to prosecute their relatives for fear of reprisals. Some report and end up withdrawing the cases, this jeopardises the entire legal process,” he says during an interview at his office.
Last month, Migori County government launched the sexual gender-based policy aimed at scaling down SGBV cases.
The policy seeks to among other things, enhance adolescent sexual risk reduction programs by using strategies that empowers communities to challenge the widely accepted cultural norms that may predispose young people in general to sexual risks.
Names of the teenagers have been hidden to protect their identity