OPINION: No justice in resolving defilement cases at home

By Titus Adika

Defilement in many parts of Kenya is still underreported and this is worrying for a crime that has the capacity to drastically change a child’s life for the worst.

My home county of Migori is particularly rife with daily reports of minors who have been defiled and the situation ‘handled at home’ instead of being reported to the relevant authorities.

Just last month, a 14-year-old girl was in anguish after allegedly being sexually abused by a tractor driver in Uriri Sub county.

The mother said that no legal action has been taken even after making several reports to the local authorities who said the issue was a domestic affair and should be handled at home.

Such cases of delayed and denied justice are further risking the lives of young girls by exposing them to sexually transmitted infections and unintended teen pregnancies.

If such trends continue, more girls will drop out of school to seek early marriages as a way of dealing with the trauma.

Furthermore, home-based resolution of sexual abuse cases tends to lack the psychological insight and medical expertise that should accompany such sensitive cases.

Many young girls end up with lifelong psychological problems because the families do not have enough information on the ultimate effects of the abuse of girls and boys.

The stigma of carrying an unintended pregnancy or even living with sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS can lead to secondary effects like suicide or dysfunctional family relationships.

If no strategic action is taken to address this situation in the country, the problem will be exacerbated especially now that young people are confined in the home for longer periods because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local administrators such as chiefs and their assistants must make a u-turn on how they handle reported defilement cases to save the otherwise worsening situation.

They should ensure that they gather much needed evidence and take serious actions on such cases by applying the Sexual Offenses Act 2006.

I also call upon the parents and the guardians to take full responsibility for their children, more so the fragile teen girls; be on the watch for any sexual abuse and report these cases to the proper authorities without fear or favor.

Parents should also equip themselves with information on the effects of STIs and early unintended pregnancies on their young daughters to better help local law administrators in proper handling of the sexual abuse cases.

Titus Adika is a youth advocate at NAYA Kenya

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