Deputy CJ warns communities against child marriage

Deputy Chief Justice Philomena  Mwilu has warned communities against marrying off underage girls.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Justice Philomena Mwilu has warned that the Judiciary will apply the law indiscriminately against perpetrators of child marriages.

  •  She said lack of systems to report violations against children frustrate protection of these vulnerable groups.

  • DCJ urged the Maasai community to embrace education of the girl child.

Marriages of children under the age of 18 is a criminal offence under the Children's Act 2006, and those found engaging in the practice will not hide under the cover of cultural imperatives to break the law, Deputy Chief Justice (DCJ) Philomena Mwilu has said.

The DCJ warned that the Judiciary will apply the law indiscriminately against perpetrators to protect children and other vulnerable groups from being preyed on by outlaws in society.

"Child marriages is defilement and a sexual offence under the Children's Act 2006," said Justice Mwilu, who added that those who practice Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), offended Section 14 of the (Children's) Act.

The DCJ observed that lack of proper systems to report violations against children by family and community members, are among obstacles that frustrate protection of these vulnerable groups.

The Vice President of the Supreme Court of Kenya spoke in Enoosaen, Narok County during celebration of the International Day of the African Child, which is marked on June 16, where she joined hundreds of girls from Kakenya Centre of Excellence, who have escaped FGM and early marriages.

The non-profit making centre was founded through Kakenya’s Dream by Kakenya Ntaiya, a girl child activist.

Child victims

The DCJ said the community had a cardinal responsibility to assist institutions charged with the protection of children by volunteering information that will assist in enforcement of sanctions against child violators and rid the society of paedophiles.

"The Judiciary is committed to protecting children, especially the girl (child) by creating a safe, enabling and empowering environment for children to thrive and meet their fullest potential," stated Justice Mwilu.

She observed that lack of pro-bono advocates to represent child victims and those in conflict with the law is another issue inhibiting access to justice for minors.

The DCJ urged the Maasai community to embrace education of the girl child, do away with repugnant practices, stating that doing so empowered the community more than when the children were married off young and uneducated.

Unicef, Kenya Demographic and Health Survey data shows the national prevalence for FGM currently at 21 per cent with the numbers significantly higher amongst certain communities such as the Maasai where it stands at 78 per cent.

Ms Mwilu said lack of corroborative evidence against paedophiles has frustrated the Judiciary's commitment to hand down deterrent sentences against offenders.

She pointed out that delays in fast-tracking cases touching on children deprived them (children) their fundamental rights.

She said: "The lack of enough resources to resolve capacity issues in the justice sector causes gaps in the quality of care and infrastructural needs for children in the justice system."

Justice sector

She added that there is a need for more children’s courts in the justice sector to cater for the specific needs of children.

Lack of psychosocial support for children in the justice system who are victims of crimes and offences, and the lack of a coordinated data collection system for accountability of the justice actors on children who find themselves in the justice system, undermines effective protection of the affected children.

Ms Mwilu explained that all issues affecting children will be addressed at the Judiciary under the Social Transformation through Access to Justice (STAJ).

She said the Judiciary has a strategy to ensure all matters involving children, including those concerning harmful practices are determined fairly and expeditiously.


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