LIFTING THE LID ON TABOO

Incest: Shocking secrets of teen girls and mothers in Murang'a

Victims forced to terminate pregnancies, mothers stick with their husbands to save their marriage

In Summary
  • Some of the culprits molest their children in instances where they are experiencing sexual dissatisfaction especially due to disagreements with their wives.
  • Men in Murang’a county have allegedly been taking advantage of the bond with their daughters, granddaughters and nieces to abuse them sexually.
Murang'a Health CEC Joseph Mbai talking to girls at Mugeka secondary school in September 2019 under his Okoa Teenagers Initiative.
Murang'a Health CEC Joseph Mbai talking to girls at Mugeka secondary school in September 2019 under his Okoa Teenagers Initiative.
Image: Alice Waithera

A 75-year-old man was last year charged with incest at Kangema law courts. He had allegedly impregnated his Standard 8 granddaughter.

The girl’s plight came to the limelight after the head teacher of her school in Kandara subcounty noticed changes in her body and summoned her mother, suspecting pregnancy.

The girl revealed that her maternal grandfather was responsible.

A P3 form filled out at the hospital indicated that her grandfather had defiled her in November 2020.

A scan of the foetus was also taken and copies were attached to the P3 form. Both the baby and the girl were in perfect health.

It came as a shock when the girl later reported back to school after the short August holidays without her pregnancy. She had procured an abortion.

Police sprang into action and arrested her mother and two elder sisters who allegedly organised for the abortion.

They denied the charges and were released on a cash bail of Sh20,000 each.

The girl’s grandfather also denied the charges and was released on a cash bail of Sh40,000. The cases are still going on.

John Njoroge, a doctor in Murang’a town, said procuring an abortion when the foetus is that old jeopardises the mother’s life and it is likely that the girl had a normal birth and the baby given away for adoption.

In Kangema subcounty, a 13-year-old girl gave birth at the Murang’a general hospital in May 2021, sparking the interest of health officials at the facility.

The tiny Class 6 girl had to undergo a caesarean section and it was only after interrogation that it was discovered she had been impregnated by her 24-year-old cousin.

On getting wind of the incident, the Muranga county executive for health Joseph Mbai visited the girl at her grandmother’s home.

During the visit, the girl revealed that she had a sexual relationship with her cousin that began when she was 10.  She said their sexual encounters happened every weekend.

“The family had a sitting and agreed that the baby would be named after the girl’s mother and the cousin was warned against seeing the teenager again,” the girl’s grandmother said but added that it was unfortunate that the man had destroyed the girl’s life.

“If it were up to me, I would say that the law should take its course because he is an adult,” she said, expressing her helplessness as the family had already decided not to prosecute him.

Mbai was however adamant that he had committed a crime and had to be prosecuted but the suspect disappeared soon after.

Mbai said failure to prosecute such suspects exposes other children to violations.

In Gaitheri village, Murang’a East subcounty, a seven-year-old girl had to testify virtually against her father suspected of habitually  molesting her as she could not face him.

The girl, a partial orphan who was living with her father who is in his 50s, was only reprieved when a teacher noticed that her walking style and behaviour change.

Murang’a East subcounty children’s officer Nanis Mutegi narrated that the girl’s testimony was disrupted when her father was allowed to question her.

“When she heard her father’s voice, she became so hysterical that the court session had to go on a break for her to calm down,” she said.

In such instances, Mutegi said the children’s department conducts a home environment assessment to establish if the child is safe saying relatives’ hostility necessitates a child’s rescue.

“But even when we rescue the child, we sensitise the family because we eventually return the child to them. We discourage taking them to  children’s homes and instead look for alternative home care such as foster homes,” she said.

In Kahuro subcounty, a woman was shocked after she abruptly arrived home from a workshop to find her husband in bed with her 11-year-old daughter on January 24, 2021.

After reporting the incident, her husband was charged with incest by Murang’a senior principal magistrate Edwin Nyaga.

On April 12, however, the woman wrote to the court indicating that the complaint "arose out of a family dispute" with her husband and that they had agreed to have the complaint withdrawn.

The prosecution did not object to the application and the magistrate withdrew the case under Section 204 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

After the withdrawal, the Muranga county coordinator of children’s services filed an appeal in May, telling the court that the offence was a felony that affected a minor whose voice and side of story was not heard before the complaint was withdrawn.

The court also heard that the mother had not been appointed as an intermediary on the minor’s behalf.

The prosecution argued that the Constitution provides for alternative dispute resolution and reconciliation but the High Court ruled that the withdrawal was not in the child’s best interest and was irregular.

“True, her mother and father may have resolved their domestic dispute but it did not cure the underlying complaint of incest,” Justice Kanyi Kimondo said before ordering that the suspect takes a fresh plea in another court.

Outgoing county criminal investigations officer Daniel Kandie said there is a need for a strong deterrence by the criminal justice system and the society to stem the upsurge of incest cases in the county.

“We need to find out why many of the cases involve grandfathers. Why are they targeting their granddaughters?” he wondered, asking families to report cases of incest so culprits can face the law.

Susan Karina, the founder of Friends for the Abused Persons International, revealed that most incest and defilement cases go unreported, with the worst affected being children living with disability.

Worse still, Karina said while many victims are forced to terminate their pregnancies to conceal the evidence, majority of their mothers choose to stick with their husbands to save their marriages despite knowing that their daughters are sexually abused.

“I have seen families organise a clan meeting where elders slaughter a goat to cleanse both the culprit and the victim and the issue is concluded,” she said.

“Most parents leave the care of their children to house helps which widens the gap between them. A parent should make the effort to have supper and breakfast with their children because these are the times they bond,” she said.

She also called urged courts to deal sternly with suspects of incest and defilement, and administrators who collude with them.

Psychologist Albert Mwangi says the menace can only be eradicated if parents teach their children to observe boundaries when they are dealing with adults of the opposite sex.

Mwangi said many children are unable to distinguish between familial and sexual attention they attract especially from close relatives until it is too late.

According to him, some of the culprits molest their children in instances where they are experiencing sexual dissatisfaction especially due to disagreements with their wives.

Mwangi said some of the culprits involved in defilement cases suffered emotional or physical abuse without any form of mental health support while they were children.

Mwangi who works at Gaichanjiru mission hospital said he dealt with a case where a man in his early 20’s impregnated two of his sisters aged 18 and 19 years during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“The most important thing is to teach our children to acknowledge indecent bonds that could lead to molestation and to respect other people’s boundaries,” he said.

On January 11, Kabarnet chief magistrate Judith Wanjala sentenced a 56-year-old man to life imprisonment for defiling his 10-year-old daughter, leading to her death.

The court’s decision was celebrated by many social media users who called on the judiciary to issue more punitive judgments to those convicted of sexual offences