KC Sidi Sarro meets Makena, a 16-year-old mother of two who was sexually abused by her father for 11 years.
Makena will soon be 16-years-old. Already she is a mother of two and living with HIV. She has never had a boyfriend and says she does not know what having a boyfriend means. Rather, Makena fell pregnant from her father who sexually abused her for 11 years.
It started when she was three. She says her father began by touching her private parts and over time this slowly evolved to full sexual intercourse. Makena says when her mother tried to express her concern she received a brutal beating that left her hospitalized and a further threat to finish her off should she open her mouth and tell anyone.
In school Makena kept to herself and rarely socialized with other children. At home she did not speak to her siblings and would keep to herself. In her seventh year of primary school, before even seeing her first period, Makena had her first baby, her father’s baby! Her mother was filled with a deep hatred for Makena. She would physically assault her from time to time, accusing her of stealing her husband’s love.
A few months after giving birth Makena conceived her second baby from her father. Her violent father died soon after from consuming an illegal and lethal local brew commonly referred to as ‘kumikumi’. Unknown to them, the father had been living with HIV. Consequently he had infected both wife and daughter, and both Makena’s children were born with the virus.
Makena’s mother is now quite remorseful and recently opened up to reveal the sexual abuse that had been meted on Makena by her father. She says: “I wish I had the courage then to speak out before it was too late. Now we have both been infected with AIDS.”
Makena is still physically and emotionally traumatized. As she has to support her two children she has no choice except to take each day as it comes by doing odd jobs and working as a casual labourer. She is still wary of strangers and opts to keep to herself.
Children who are defiled or sexually abused are very vulnerable and require extensive counseling to help them cope. This form of abuse leads to deep psychological scars and is damaging to both reproductive and sexual health, which may prove fatal.
Abused children not only become withdrawn but also suffer self-stigma as well as stigma from the community. They may end up becoming depressed and having a low self esteem. In some societies, men sexually abuse children and minors in the mistaken belief they will be cured of HIV.
Cases of defilement are not uncommon in Kenya and they often go unreported or ‘settled out of court’ if they carried out by people outside of the family. It should be noted that Kenya has made attempts to put laws in place that protect and safeguard the rights of children especially against sexual abuse. But by and large the reality is these laws are not fully implemented posing a problem in child protection efforts.
In the past, child sexual abuse in most African communities was thought of as a taboo and an extreme abomination. Children were highly valued and protected from any harm whether physical or psychological emanating from within and without the family. It was the duty of every adult whether related or not to the child, to take care, protect and ensure that the child’s best interest was upheld. Even with the polygamous family setting, which was the predominant family form of organization this was the position. The child was considered as belonging to the society and everyone had a duty to protect him or her.
In Makena’s case it was the duty of the mother to report this matter to the police after which the husband would have been arrested and charged in court. He committed various offenses including rape, sexual assault, incest and deliberate transmission of HIV.
These offenses are comprehensively covered in our laws. But now that Makena’s father has passed away the criminal law cannot take its course as there is no offender to proceed against.
Justice for Makena will not be done.