What you need to know:
- The Sexual Offences Act has comprehensive legal provisions against sexual offences, including those committed against children.
- According to this law, defilement occurs when a person commits an act that causes penetration with a child.
I am a class teacher of Grade Five at a primary school in my locality. Recently, one of my female pupils, an 11-year-old orphan, wrote me a letter indicating that her guardian has been touching her pubic area and sometimes inserts what she refers to as “his thing” in her private parts. As a reward, the male guardian tells her he shall continue paying her school fees. Her parents died during the Covid-19 pandemic. I am concerned. Please advise on the steps I can take.
Dear Tr Marvin,
In Kenya, the protection of children from abuse is paramount.
The rights of children are protected by a robust legal framework, hence your actions in this case will become instrumental in ensuring justice, safety and a future for the child who confided in you.
The Children Act places a legal obligation on individuals, especially those in positions of care and authority, to report any suspicion or knowledge of child abuse.
As a teacher, you are required to report and it is imperative that you promptly report the sexual abuse to the relevant authorities.
The relevant authorities in this case shall be the Police and the Department of Children's Services.
It is prudent also that the minor is quickly removed from the home of the abuser and taken to the nearest hospital for medical review.
Kenya's Sexual Offences Act has comprehensive legal provisions against sexual offences, including those committed against children such as defilement.
According to this law, defilement occurs when a person commits an act that causes penetration with a child.
Further, the person who commits an offence of defilement with a child aged 11 or less shall upon conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for life.
The only defence to this charge is if it is proved that such a child deceived the accused person she was over the age of 18 years at the time of the alleged commission of the offence and that the accused reasonably believed that the child was over the age of 18.
In addition to the national channels, check if the school has policies on child abuse and familiarise yourself with the reporting structure.
This may involve informing the school principal or another designated staff member responsible for child protection.
As you do so, ensure the child feels safe and that the process does not become too tedious for her. Therefore, reduce the number of times the minor has to recount her experience.
The consequences of sexual violence against minors are severe; they can affect their physical and emotional well-being, hence the need to provide psycho-social support through a child therapist.
The minor should continually be assured that the process is not meant to embarrass her and her right to education is not solely dependent on the guardian.
Notably, prepare the relevant documents such as the letter and any specific information provided by the pupil. This documentation shall be crucial during investigations and legal proceedings.
The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and award-winning civil society lawyer ([email protected]).