Parents are naturally protective of their young ones. It's instinctive. This protective instinct is not limited to humans. Anyone who has ever tried reaching for a young chick in its mother's presence has a tale to tell. Just this week a mother bear was run over by a train in north-east Russia as she tried to save her cubs, who were running on the tracks.
As young children on the playground we would debate over whose father was the strongest. Every little girl would swear that her father was the strongest. Again, it's instinctive. They know they can count on dad no matter what.
But not so for little girls, and boys, in Lamu.
A new crop of parents is preying on their own children for sex. Fathers and mothers are lusting after their young daughters and sons.
Many residents fear the area is cursed and want preachers to offer cleansing prayers for the county before it ends up in the deepest pits of hell.
At least 25 girls have been defiled by their biological fathers between January and May this year, according to a report released early this month by the World Vision Office in charge of Education and Child Protection.
DADDY TURNED BEAST
The programme’s representative in Lamu, Sheikh Maro, says the cases are rampant in Hindi, Bargoni, Kauthara, Ndeu, Sabasaba and Roka Kibiboni in Lamu West and East subcounties.
“The number of young girls who are sexually abused by their own biological fathers is alarming and the trend shameful and beastly to say the least. Unfortunately, we have many other cases we are aware are never reported and mark you they are so many,” he says.
To avoid stigma and bringing shame to their families, many wives cover up for their husbands and keep quiet about their children's abuse.
“Where did our morals go that even mothers, who naturally should look out for the young girls, end up taking the side of their husbands, leaving these poor girls at [these men's] mercy? Be warned that if you don’t report such a person, they won’t stop or will even do it to more children," Maro says.
Domestic squabbles have been singled out as one factor contributing to child sexual abuse. Women storm out of their marriages after disagreements, leaving behind their young daughters, who eventually become victims of their abusive fathers.
“The cases we have recorded indicated that the mother is always missing from home at the time these acts take place. The father turns to his daughters to fulfill his lust. We encourage women to leave with their female children, especially if there is no other way of resolving [their marital] conflict," Maro says.
Maro appeals to everyone in society to join hands to end child sexual abuse and to bring the culprits to book. He says there is need to cultivate a clean and morally upright society where children are safe from all manner of abuse. People must learn to speak out whenever they feel something isn’t right, even for a child that’s not their own, Maro says.
“You suspect so and so’s daughter is in trouble, find out what it is and report it. You will have changed a million lives. Don't wait until its too late."
Maro says some of these men end up impregnating their own daughters as society stands by and watches the cycle transferred from one generation to the next.
Another factor cited by residents is drunkenness. They say many girls are raising children sired by their fathers.
Nixon Mwangi, a Nyumba Kumi elder in Hindi, says many men always claim to have been drunk when they raped their daughters and feign forgetfulness.
He says illicit liquor dens continue to sprout by the day and the problem is getting out of hand.
Mwangi rubbishes the claim that one can unknowingly rape their own child in a drunken stupor. They probably thought about it when they were sober, he says.
“Men here will go drinking then head home and sexually abuse their children. When we find out and ask them, they claim to have no idea of what they did while others actually accept their mistake but blame it on the alcohol. But we all know that’s just an excuse. It's something they like doing,” Mwangi says.
Residents have appealed to the government to make laws to strictly regulate illegal liquor.
Elder Karanja Munga of Roka Kibiboni village couldn’t agree more. “Some of these men are typical drunks whose wives finally [get fed up] and flee, leaving behind their girls. In that stupor or rather under its pretext, these men defile their own daughters then act like they have no idea what they did. It's a sad situation. If mothers have to leave, then tag your daughters along."
MOTHERS AND SONS
Another disturbing situation is where women sleep with their own sons, either when sober on inebriated. Drug abuse remains a big challenge in Lamu.
In Hindi, for instance, mothers openly flirt with and sleep with their sons. Elder George Karanja says the community is worried that a bad omen could befall them over this evil parents are visiting on their children.
“I know of several women who treat their own sons like they are their husbands. They do everything for them, including having sex with them, plus they are so blatant about it. We don’t know what to do."
Karanja says the parents could have been bewitched or are under a curse. Residents want the old morally upright Hindi back.
The community has appealed to the national government to tighten the noose on parents who prey on their children by meting out ruthless punishments and making tough laws.
Elder Stanley Njenga says only punitive laws can stop child sexual abuse. “Even the Bible rebukes such relations and they are believed to attract curses. The government must come up with strict laws to punish such parents. We shouldn’t act like it's normal. These must be rebuked with all force,” he says.
According to a report by the Director of Public Prosecutions office in Lamu, Hindi has had the most number of child defilement cases between 2015 and 2017.
WHO TO BLAME?
Residents blame the concerned government institutions of laxity in addressing such cases when they are reported.
Joseph Njenga, a KPR officer in Hindi, complains that many cases of fathers defiling their daughters have ended prematurely after the suspects were released by police or on bond by the courts.
He says the courts take too long to decide such cases that they discourage people from reporting new cases of abuse.
“I personally arrested a man who was having sexual relations with his own daughter here in Hindi and took him to Hindi police station. But as we speak, the man is back home and has continued defiling the daughter. The police and courts are failing us. Most times such cases are thrown out on grounds [of lack of] sufficient evidence. That's so disappointing,” Njenga says.
Lamu children’s welfare officer Maxwell Titima says in such a situation, the root of the matter is that a child has been abused and their rights should hold fundamental weight.
“The law is clear. Sexual abuse is just [that], whether it's committed while you're under a spell or whatever pretexts people want to use. It's a crime punishable by law. It's even worse if a father is doing it to their own daughter. How shameless. We must work together, from the villagers to the police and the courts, to win this,” he says.