Uproar as age of consent exploited in abuse of schoolgirls

Pregnancy pix

Kilifi parents want all schoolgirls protected.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Local administrators and child rights activists say because cases go unresolved, many girls are dropping out of school and getting married.
  • Police say they can only handle rape cases as overage learners can consent to sex.

Kilifi parents have lamented that many cases of sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) among overage schoolgirls go unresolved because of the age factor.

They say pregnancies among overage learners are prevalent in Ganze and Magarini sub-counties. Local administrators and child rights activists say because cases go unresolved, many girls are dropping out of school and getting married.

Mr Samson Chai, the Mrima wa Ndege chief in Ganze Subcounty, said they refer SBGV cases to the police but nothing is done.

“Parents report to us about their abused daughters and we refer the matters to the police to initiate legal procedures. But, in cases where the girl is 18 years and above, the police do not initiate investigations and always ask the victim to settle the matter with the perpetrator out of court,” Mr Chai claimed.


He said the move had subjected many parents and victims to pain and psychological torture. “Police are always clear to us that they are going by the law as a person aged 18 years and above is an adult.”

According to Mr Chai, many girls in Ganze have been affected as children start schooling way past the recommended entry age because of poverty.

“It is time we moved to protect our girls in school. Any man who sexually abuses a student should face the law without being favoured because of age. Legal action is the only way to stop the menace, but as of now, things are out of hand and parents are feeling bitter,” he said.

Mr Chai said seven cases reported by parents from Milore Primary School are unresolved because of age. “The number is high. Having over five pregnant girls from one school is a crisis in the community.”

Ms Nesta Yeri, the assistant chief of Kaembeni in Sokoke ward, said a higher percentage of overage girls in Ganze will drop out of school. “Ganze is a poor area, and when the police ask parents to go back home and agree, the outcome is dowry negotiations and forced marriage follows.”

Ms Yeri said the situation is also creating bad blood between local administrators and parents who think they are colluding with the police to deny their daughters justice.

“Parents do not know that the role of the local administrator is to forward the matter to the police for action, only for the officers to turn them away. And by the end of the day, the family of the victim sees you as an enemy.”

Parents get mad at them and feel that the government has failed to protect their children, she added, emphasising the need for all players to come out and protect all schoolchildren without discrimination.

“We should speak with one voice and state that a child is a child as long as they are in school so that they can complete their education to have a bright future. This would help them and their community, instead of having illiterate school dropouts,” Ms Yeri said.

Ganze Sauti ya Wanawake chairperson Judith Uchi said parents have stopped reporting cases, and girls are giving birth at home and dropping out of school. She said SGBV perpetrators exploit legal loopholes and brag about the abuse. “Perpetrators are taking advantage of the age. They openly say there is no legal action against them as the victim is an adult.”


Magarini Sauti ya Wanawake secretary Bibiana Salim said they stopped pushing for legal action in cases where learners are overage. She lamented inaction on the part of the police, adding that their efforts amounted to a waste of time and resources.

According to Ms Salim, it is expensive to handle an SGBV case as most procedures are done at the Malindi Sub-County Hospital, including filling in the P3 forms. It costs over Sh3,000 to handle a SGBV case from the interior parts of the Magarini.

“It was demoralising because we spent time and resources to protect the schoolgirls, but the obstacle ahead of us was huge,” she said.

Ms Kaneno Kenga from Mrima wa Ndege narrated her ordeal after officers at the Matanomane police station in Vitengeni Division asked her to look for the man who impregnated her 19-year-old girl, who is a candidate at Milore Primary School.

Her daughter dropped out of school and gave birth in May. “A man impregnated my daughter, and I filed a report at Matanomane police station, but they asked me to go back home with her as she was overage.”

Ms Kenga added that efforts to have the perpetrator, a bodaboda operator, support his child were in vain. “I wanted my daughter to go back to school, but my biggest challenge is money to buy milk for the baby while the mother is away. The man who impregnated her has declined to support him,” she said.

“I am bitter as I always struggle to raise money to pay at school and buy food for my family.”

Milore Primary School head Fredrick Ngumbao said five girls are pregnant, including a Grade Five girl aged 17, while others have delivered and are at home.

“Many girls who get pregnant are overage. Currently, two candidates sitting their KCPE exam this year are expectant, while others gave birth and would come for the examination,” he said.

County Director for Children Service George Migosi said police have been acting within the law, as the Children Act, 2022, defines a child. He said cases involving overage pupils is a challenge in Kilifi.

“When looking at sexual and gender-based violence cases, we only deal with the age, not whether she is in school or not. In case the person who has impregnated the girl is underage, she is supposed to be taken to court for defiling a boy,” he said.


Mr Migosi, however, added that Members of Parliament are in a position to amend the Education Act to protect all schoolgirls. “A case is where a girl aged 18 or 19 complains about being raped. But if it is not (attempted) rape, the police have nothing to do because she can consent to sex,” he said.

County police boss Nelson Taliti said cases of overage pregnant learners are a challenge to them, citing the age factor. He said they can only handle rape cases for the girls to get justice.

“Otherwise, we get a challenge arresting and prosecuting perpetrators when the girls are 18 years and above because, according to the law, the victim is an adult and can consent to sex.”

 Mr Taliti attributed the cases to the long distance to schools and poverty, urging Parliament to amend the law to protect all schoolgirls.

“If it is possible, there should be a law that identifies and protects a schoolgirl, regardless of her age, to give powers to the police to arrest and charge the perpetrators,” he said.