CHILD'S RIGHT TO BELIEVE

Jehovah Witnesses faith at centre of custody battle

Grandmother says granddaugher is being deprived of her right to religion

In Summary

• Grandmother says she is better placed to take care of the child as they are both Jehovah's Witnesses.

• Says her daughter does not approve of the faith and took away the girl on the pretext of visiting.

High Court in Nairobi.
RELIGIOUS PRACTICE: High Court in Nairobi.
Image: FILE:

Can a seven-year-old child, said to be a Jehovah Witness, decide her own religion? And does she have the right to practice it, despite a caregiver's opposition?

These are among the issues the High Court in Nairobi is being asked to decide as a Jehovah Witness grandmother seeks custody of her seven-year-old granddaughter.

She argues that the girl's aunt is not a Jehovah Witness, does not approve of the religion and wants to change the child's faith and practices.

 
 
 

The custody battle involves the family of a former state corporation managing director.

The child's mother, who was the MD's daughter, died early this year.

The former MD's ex-wife, a Jehovah Witness, has sued her other daughter who took away her granddaughter after the death of her sister.

The grandmother says the minor is a  Jehovah Witness and says her daughter deprived the child of her religious practices by taking her away.  

Jehovah Witnesses are a conservative Christian group and do not believe in blood transfusions, even to save one's life, among other doctrines.

Magistrate Maureen Kibe has temporarily stopped the woman from transferring her niece from her school pending the hearing of the case.

Through lawyer Shadrack Wambui, the mother says her single mother daughter and the grandchild were both Jehovah Witnesses. Therefore, she says, she should be allowed to care for the child according to her religious beliefs.

 
 

“The minor’s mother, the minor herein and myself were inseparable due to our shared ways of life and we became more than a mother, a daughter and a grandchild and certainly more than friends as we were prayer mates and colleagues,” court papers read.

The woman has accused her daughter of planning to change the religious beliefs and schooling of her grandchild, saying she had never approved of their Jehovah Witnesses faith.

Lawyer Wambui says the child is being forced to live with people who do not share her spiritual beliefs.

The mother has also claimed her daughter died after she was forced to accept blood transfusion against her religious beliefs and her will was ignored by her father and sister.

“The minor’s mother brought her up as a staunch and dedicated follower of the doctrines, teachings and traditions of the Jehovah Witnesses religious group, with great opposition from the sister,” court documents read.

“The child is unable to attend the weekly meetings or follow through her daily Bible discussions since the daughter has refused to surrender her back to the grandmother.”

Wambui tells the court the grandmother, her daughter now deceased and her granddaughter attended many spiritual gatherings.

"In line with the minor’s religion, she has been attending two weekly religious meetings on Wednesdays and Sundays in addition to her daily Bible discussions which have gone a long way to nourishing her spiritual wellbeing,” the grandmother said.

She said her daughter took away the child by pretending she wanted access but has refused to return her.

They have disagreed about many things, including her divorce 18 years ago, and since then her daughter has disrespected her and blames her for the divorce because of the religious difference, the grandmother says.

She said her daughter was ill-placed to protect the child's best interests because she is in an abusive marriage.

Edited by R.Wamochie