Early this month, a council of elders who presided over a public hearing in Kipini, Tana River County found Ann Karembo, 33, guilty of domestic violence.
Several witnesses testified that Karembo regularly beat her husband. One said that Karembo openly boasted at the market that she often battered her husband.
Meanwhile, Karembo’s sister-in-law said that, after hearing that her brother was being beaten by his wife, she visited the couple late one night and found Karembo beating her brother. And when Karembo’s husband was brought before the elders, he had wounds on his body.
Convinced of Karembo’s guilt, the elders fined her seven cows and Sh20,000 for husband battering, which is an abomination in the community.
But before delivering the fine to the elders, she would have to undergo a cleansing ceremony to enable her to mingle with members of the community, from which they had ostracised her.
She was supposed to pay the fine by Tuesday this week but when she realised that she could not meet the deadline, she appealed to the elders on March 18, asking them to reduce the fine to three cows and Sh10,000, and to extend the deadline by another month.
Ms Karembo pointed out cows are very expensive this season, and that neither she nor her family could afford to buy any.
Ms Karembo told the elders that people in the area have refused to have anything to do with her or her family, making their lives miserable.
“Whereas this penalty was mine alone, my family has been drawn into it. Neither my siblings nor parents can sell anything locally. Even my brother who operates a boda boda has been shunned by his clients,” she narrated
Ms Karembo said raising the fine will be an uphill task within the stipulated period and urged the elders to be considerate.
In an interview with the Nation, Ms Karembo's father, Willy Mwaringa, said the family has undergone trying moments since the case, including being shunned by friends. He noted that some of their relatives have distanced themselves the family since they don't want to suffer the fate as a family that has been cursed by locals.
“Even the friends I used to go fishing with cannot let me accompany them me to the ocean anymore. They make sure they arrive early and leave till late in the evening,' he said.
Mwaringa has also appealed to the elders to publicly clarify what who they expect to pay the fine, so that the family does not suffer for the mistakes of an individual.
Mr Yusuf Mjisu, an elder, confirmed that they had received the appeal through some elders. He revealed that they were still discussing the appeal and will make their position known in 12 days.
Meanwhile, he said the final result may be negligible, since the decision to fine Karembo was not made out of greed or hatred, but to serve as a warning to other women so that they do not do what the community considers taboo.
“If we bend too low, we will lose our authority, so we must keep it tight and terrible for there to be fear among the rest,” he added.
Ms Karembo now has to wait until August 29, when the elders’ council will meet and give direction on the way forward.