Father’s Day was celebrated on June 16, same as the Day of the African Child. I belatedly take the opportunity to especially celebrate fathers who take their parenting responsibilities and roles as they should. And they are many.
They take their paternity leave seriously. They take care of their babies, they change diapers, wash the babies, drop and pick up the children from school, help with homework and all that appertains to it, including helping with the housework.
There are many single fathers also out there giving their all for their families. Although what these fathers do is what should be done, it is not common practice in our society. It is progressive and positive that youthful Kenyan men continue to embrace their role as parents.
But among this positivity, the almost daily heartbreaking reports of children, especially girls, suffering sexual violence perpetrated by their fathers dominates the national landscape. Cases of incest are rampant. Even prominent men in our society are known to sexually molest their children and live in incestuous relationships with them.
In the course of my work, I have recently encountered many cases of defilement of girls as young as six years by crazed men who include fathers, stepfathers, their mothers’ lovers, relatives and others, adults one would assume are right-thinking members of the society.
The saddest and latest is a case of a 10-year-old girl rescued from her abusive father in the outskirts of Nairobi. This father-turned-molester, defiler and paedophile has harmed the child so much that she is a pitiable sight and emotionally broken. When she spoke out, it emerged that her father had not only been defiling her but would also give her out to some equally dirty-minded male friend.
Fortunately, the man was arrested through the help of the child’s teachers and children’s officers and she is in safe hands. But, disturbingly, the local community became hostile in defence of the defiler, who, in their view, is a “respectable and responsible elder”.
It is not all gloom, though. Communities are progressively being empowered, and when they happen on a child in distress, they act. A number of the children that I have encountered were rescued through tips from neighbours, teachers and children’s’ officers
There are police officers, some serving on the gender desk, and they, too, are doing a great job of rescuing besieged minors and making sure they find for them safe houses as they pursue justice for them.
Each and every one of us needs to take it upon ourselves to fight sexual abuse against children.
Instances like those we have had, where cries for help from, especially, women battered by the men in their lives are ignored by the neighbours only for them to end up dead, must end. People ought to make their neighbours’ welfare their business and look out for each other.
On the other hand, the government must take this matter more seriously and treat it as a crisis, for that is what it is. There may be an increase in awareness campaigns and empowerment on sexual violence against minors, rape and other forms of gender-based violence, but still there is a worrying increase of the cases.
What do social workers in government do? Is there a way of enhancing their responsibilities to monitor children’s welfare in schools and at home? They should determine areas that are most affected by this evil and act.
The Judiciary must give maximum and deterrent penalties whenever culprits are charged and guilt established.
Reports of church leaders sexually abusing children under their care notwithstanding, the clergy should not only put this perversion to an immediate end but also take up its primary duty of preaching virtue to make our country safe for children.
All the men among us must stand up and be the real fathers that they ought to be.
Ms Rugene is a consulting editor. [email protected]