Two weeks ago, I wrote in this column about the need for society to do more in protecting the vulnerable, especially children and women, against sexual and gender-based violence, among other abusive behaviour.
I often receive responses from readers with varying reactions in the form of criticism, suggestions, new information or general comments and, once in a while, an insult or two, especially from men.
What usually sparks my interest, however, are the cases that some caring and responsible Kenyans refer to me — mainly of girls subjected to untold sexual abuse. They write in to seek help after they have, apparently, hit a brick wall. Most of the mistreated girls are from a humble background, which makes it difficult for them to get justice.
Most of the cases of sexual abuse and defilement are usually quite depressing. The worst of them are those where the children walk into scenes of more vulnerability and abuse in their bid to get justice. To be honest, confronting and listening to the stories of such girls is traumatising.
Take the case of this teenager, days shy of her 18th birthday, whom I met a week ago. Viola (I will call her that) has been to hell and back. She was orphaned at 13.
Immediately after her father died, a relative stormed their home with an elderly man he wanted to force on her for “marriage”. The kin made it clear to her that, being a woman, she could not inherit anything of her father’s estate. Her only choice, he argued, was to marry the octogenarian.
Viola refused and ran away, ending up in the home of a friend of her father. She stayed there for several weeks — until one day a young man at the home raped her. She was blamed for it and sent away with warnings and threats against reporting the matter to police.
She would spend a week in the cold streets, sick and tired, until a Good Samaritan showed up. The kind woman took her to Nairobi and, together with friends, supported her to get jobs as a househelp — albeit illegally, since she was underage.
While in one of these jobs three years later, the man of the house and three of his male friends pounced on her at night, when the wife was away. This gang brutalised and defiled her. The woman was to later conspire with her husband and kick her out, again with warnings against reporting the evil act to police.
As Viola turns 18, she clutches in her feeble hands a baby from the violent sexual attack. Today, a kind soul is taking care of the pair. She has given up on justice as she picks up the pieces.
Back to the letters for help.
Responding to my write-up two weeks ago, this reader from Migori County sent in an email titled “A Voiceless Cry for Help”. It is the story of a Standard Five girl defiled by her elderly uncle recently. He says the man defiled the little girl repeatedly and made her pregnant. That put to an end to her education.
Her parents, says my contact, reported the matter to the chief and a nearby police station and the suspect was arrested and taken into custody. Shortly after, my informer reports, the loathsome man, who he says has “financial muscle”, was released; “He walked free, threatened the little girl’s parents into submission and was never taken to court to face the law...that was the end of the game.”
He concludes as he seeks my help to help the child to get justice: “The little girl’s world has come crushing, her education cut short and she has been banished from home. Nobody knows her whereabouts and she’s carrying this burden alone.”
I have details — including the names of the relevant people in these cases — if anybody cares. I’m sure the actors in the torture of this child and denial of justice know themselves.
As much as we may have laws to deal with sexual abuse against children, the government should set up a fund to assist such victims of sexual and gender violence. The authorities must also arrest and prosecute officers and administrators who abet the crimes or fail in their responsibility to deal with them.
It cannot be business as usual!
Ms Rugene is a consulting editor. [email protected] @nrugene