Under the SEXUAL OFFENCES ACT (2006) a person who defiles a child aged eleven years or below shall upon conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for life; if the child is aged between 12 and 15 years, the term of imprisonment shall not less than 20year; and if the child is between 16-18 years old, the defiler faces a term of no less than 15 years behind bars.
These are penalties that one would hope would scare the wits out of any person who is at least of reasonably sound mind from conceiving the slightest idea of defiling a minor in Kenya, but judging from the rampant cases of defilement this is not so.
Every morning we read in Kenya’s daily newspapers stories of rape and molestation involving minors. Sadly, the perpetrators are in most cases close relatives to the victims. Incest seems to have become all too common as fathers turn into their own children, or near relatives betray the trust of those in their charge.
Children as young as three years old have not been spared and a large number of the victims are left pregnant at a tender age, and in the worst cases infected with HIV of other sexually transmitted diseases.
In Kericho county, for example, sexual offences have been much on the rise. A report by Peter Mutai in The Standard (September 7, 2011) revealed that about 20 cases were reported in that county last month alone, according to Deputy OCPD Patrick Nandi. One of the cases involved a five year old girl whose 40 year old father attempted to defile her; luckily the poor girl was saved by the mother’s timely response to her cries for help.
Most of these cases however go unreported as parents prefer resolving matters privately as some communities still perceive public discussions of sexual matters as taboo. Others are too afraid to report the assault after threats by the perpetrators who in most instances, even when arrested, are released due to lack of evidence.
Cases of teachers molesting their students have been on the rise too. Four months ago, a head teacher defiled four girls aged between 7 to 13 years over lunch and infected them with HIV.
In a recent incident highlighted this week by The Star, a 12 year old girl was forced to drop out of school in Nandi central district after being impregnated by a member of the school’s PTA. The sad thing is that despite the matter having been reported to the police, the culprit, who apparently is well known, is still at large.
Mothers have been left worried to death for their children, home which was once the safest haven for their young ones has become a danger zone and school is not safe either.
The girl child is not the only endangered species; young boys have been preyed upon too. Sodomy makes up a high percentage of the defilement cases, a recent instance being that of a six year old boy that was assaulted by a 20 year old man in Kirinyaga County as reported by The Star, on Friday last week. The man was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
ANCIENT EVIL OR A MANIFESTATION OF MODERN KENYAN SOCIETY?
Several questions linger in the mind as one tries to figure out why Kenyan society has seemingly turned this way. Was this evil ever-present but just not reported in the way it is today? Is it a sad reality recently revealed, or a growing modern menace? Does it derive from ignorance, perversity, or just plain evil? Are these the tell-tale signs of the last days as described in the Book of Revelations as some would have it, or are they just illustrations of a decaying society? And how do we stop this abomination?
One does not have to be a devout Christian to hope a millstone will be cast about the neck of each and every perpetrator before they are thrown into the water. Neither does one have to be a reactionary to believe that the development of our modern society has had a role to play. Either way, this appalling issue has to be urgently addressed.