Guest Blog: Violence against Children

Seventy seven cases of child sexual defilements cases have been recorded at the Mtwapa Health Center since January 2015[i]. Of these only 10 are before court, or have had convictions. These are reported cases. Just how many cases remain unreported is a mystery. This is seen in the light of the fact that “less than one percent out of every females or males who experienced sexual, physical, or emotional violence as a child knows of a place to go to seek professional help[ii]”In fact the statistics are grimmer in taking into cognizance the fact that cultural barriers and local face-saving attitudes held by village elders makes it very difficult to get justice for a child who has faced sexual violence.

Sexual violence reported in the coastal region at three centers are: Coast Provincial General Hospital from August 2007 to Feb 2015 – 5,464 survivors of sexual violence; Kilifi District Hospital-June 2013 425 to Feb 2015 – 493 and Mtwapa Health Centre-104 (June 2013 to Feb 2015 – 137[iii]), both adult and children. These statistics are yet again, for reported cases alone! We can only imagine the numbers if it included unreported cases.

It is important to note that Trace Kenya and Safe Community Youth Initiative only get complaints from mothers whose children have been defiled by their relatives when they do not benefit from the process of arbitration. Statements like “I did not benefit at all because the elders ate kanjama[iv].  Are quite common when they report the cases. The welfare of the child is not a priority. Usually, at that moment all evidence of the defilement is lost, unless of course the child is infected by sexually transmitted infections or HIV and Aids.

Mtwapa, in Kilifi County like Bombolulu in Mombasa report worrying cases of incest and defilement – especially on school holidays. Perpetrators are believed to be mainly people that abuse drugs and alcohol in the area. Sauti Ya Wamama organization in Mombasa has been working closely with other stakeholders in fighting sexual abuse in the region. However, they lament the lack of information by parents, worsened by loose marriage relationships people engage in the two counties.

Kenya Demographic Heath Survey show that violence against children is represented by 32% of females and 18% of males aged 18-24 years. It also shows that the most common perpetrators of sexual violence for females and males were found to be boyfriends/ girlfriends/ romantic partners comprising 47% and 43% respectively followed by neighbors, 27% and 21% respectively. National Statistics[v] conducted between November 2008 and February 2009 indicate that a total of 13.3% of women reported having been sexually violated while a further 39.0% reported having been physically violated by a spouse within that year .The study showed that:  12% of women 15-49 report that their first sexual intercourse was forced; 1 in 5 Kenyan women have experienced sexual violence; Almost half (45% of women 15-49 have experienced either physical or sexual violence; 6.3% of Kenyan adults 15-49 are infected with HIV ; and that prevalence in women age 15-49 is 8.0% while for men same age bracket it is 4.3%

Even with an array of legal frameworks for protection of persons from sexual violence such as Constitution, 2010; Penal Code; Sexual Offences Act,2006; HIV Prevention and Control Act, 2006; Children Act , 2001; Basic Education Act; Anti Female Genital Mutilation Act; Counter trafficking in persons Act, 2010; Witness protection Act, 2010; Employment Act- sec 6; Marriage Act, 2014; Security Act, 2014; Victim Protection Act, 2014 there is still rampant violence especially directed at children in many communities.

Besides the cultural barrier mentioned earlier, ignorance and lack of information by communities put them at risk. For instance “Less than 10% of females and males who experienced sexual, physical or emotional violence as a child actually received some form of professional help” Says Elizabeth Aroka, a consultant on Gender Based Violence in Mombasa. She adds that “Three out of every ten females 30% aged 18 to 24 who reported experiencing unwanted completed intercourse before the age of 18 (i.e., sex that was physically forced or pressured) became pregnant as a result. And that among females aged 18 to 24 who experienced sexual violence as a child; about 7% had received money for sex compared to 2% of those who did not experience violence prior to age 18”[vi].

The cultural space of a woman places her at a disadvantage when “Over half females and males age 18 to 24, regardless of whether they experienced violence prior to 18, believe that it is acceptable for a husband to beat his wife. Furthermore, 40% of females and 50% of males believed that a woman should tolerate spousal violence in order to keep her family together”. Experience by Trace Kenya and other stakeholders on the ground indicate that girls are particularly susceptible to sexual violence at home. Culture denies boys from reporting cases of sexual violence, and hence they are only found to be violated when they are showing signs of such violation, usually too late to mitigate against HIV and Aids.

Sexual violence is well defined by the various legal regimes as inter alia: defilement (with reference to children); Attempted defilement; Rape; Gang rape; attempted rape; Indecent act with a child; Promotion of sexual offences with a child; child trafficking; child sex tourism; child prostitution; child pornography. Child trafficking is clearly defined as a violation of children rights and this is the reason why the awareness created by Trace Kenya and the pursuit for justice we constantly engage in is very pertinent.

Guest blog by Paul Adhoch

Paul Adhoch is the Executive Director of Trace Kenya who is an NGO working to fight human trafficking in Kenya and a partner of HAART Kenya.

[i] Safe Community Youth Initiative reports 2015/Mtwapa Gender Recovery Unity

[ii] Equirights Consultants, Mombasa.

[iii] SGBV Recovery centers 2015

[iv] Complaining not about justice for the child, but the fact that she was excluded from the blood money or compensation shared out by elders.

[v] Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS)

[vi] Information from KHDS 2010

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