Who will dry the tears of Busia girls?
On November 9, Ms Mary Makokha, a child rights campaigner from Busia, posted this on her Facebook page: “For a long time now, I have been advocating and lobbying to make our county and constituencies safe for children. Are we now very happy that Busia and Butula (are) now known internationally for child sexual abuse? Documentaries on sexual abuse in Butula are now being used as a case study. I feel so ashamed.”
Ms Makokha, director of the Butula-based rights group, Rural Education and Economic Enhancement Programme (Reep), which has become synonymous with the fight against sexual violence against children and women in the region, was commenting on the case of Liz, a pupil gang-raped and thrown into a pit latrine on June 26, and whose story, exclusively published by DN2 on October 8, had received global attention as people called for justice for her.
The 16-year-old girl from Tingolo in Butula is still undergoing treatment at the Gynocare Fistula Centre in Eldoret for a spinal injury and double fistula. So far, only one of the six suspects has been arrested and charged with the offence of causing grievous harm to her — she now has to use a wheelchair — in what Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko says is a holding charge.
“There are too many (such) cases,” says Ms Faith Orifa, head of the Gender Desk at Funyula Police Station.
“At times they are overwhelming and the challenges are just as many. Recently, I asked a man who had defiled his child why he had done it, and he claimed to have been misled by ‘forces of darkness’.”
Ms Orifa, who spoke to DN2 shortly after interviewing a 15-year-old pupil who had been defiled and beaten by her father, blames the victims’ parents for being quick to “negotiate” when their children are defiled, and also for failing to take care of their daughters.
The so-called negotiations are a common phenomenon in the county, where parents of abused girls enter into casual agreements and are compensated to shield the abusers from facing the law.
Compensation, which is often paid to the girl’s male relatives, is usually in the form of livestock, money or land, says Ms Makokha.
“It is big business here,” adds Mike Wanyama, a project manager at Reep. “These men (fathers) benefit from the pain and trauma inflicted on the young girls, and with which they have to live for the rest of their lives.”
Like Ms Makokha, the officer says most parents do not seem to take keen interest in the security of their daughters. Most girls here, for instance, usually sleep in kitchens detached from the main houses, making them vulnerable to sexual abuse.
A few days ago a man in his 20s was arrested in Bulwani village of Butula over the defilement of a five-year-old girl.
Villagers said he had broken into a house where three sisters were sleeping, taken off with the child and defiled her a few metres from the homestead. She was rescued after her sisters raised the alarm.
However, the following day, relatives of the abused child — including an uncle and grand-parents — together with the accused’s father demanded the release of the suspect, saying they had agreed “to end the matter”.
“The families say they agreed because they are neighbours and do not want the man to suffer in jail. Even the victim’s two sisters who were supposed to record statements were prevented from doing so. That is how much we value our girls. They want monetary or material compensation,” Ms Makokha said.
‘I WILL BE BLAMED’
She said the girl’s grandmother even suggested that the suspect be flogged and set free “because if he goes to jail, he will suffer and I will be blamed (by neighbours and the family). However, by the time of filing this report, the suspect was still being held by police.
Ms Orifa says the abused girls are intimidated into silence. “Usually, I talk to the girls reassuringly, like a mother, to get them to speak out. At times it takes days before they give full information, long after the evidence has been tampered with,” she says.
Victims of sexual abuse are advised to report to the police and get medical attention within 72 hours of the attack.
Says Ms Makokha: “The stigma of rape, coupled with intimidation and poor communication between children and their authoritarian parents, makes it difficult for them to speak out when they get hurt.”
To counter this, community-based organisations have introduced child rights clubs to schools in parts of the county, where children are taught their rights and how to assert themselves, as well as helped to build self-esteem and dignity, among other things.
“We came up with this concept after realising that different forms of child abuse are rampant in Busia and wanted the children to participate in their own protection and to know their rights,” says Ms Makokha, named the UN Person of the Year 2008 because of her work.
“With these clubs, we can now report success stories, especially in Butula, where most of the abuse and defilement occur.”
The former journalist says the children’s clubs have been introduced in 34 schools and will be rolled out to more.
Here, some cases from Busia:
Apiyo’s husband is on the run after reportedly defiling his three daughters (two of them twins) and “seducing” a fourth one.
The 29-year-old mother of five daughters says around May 16, she went to the shamba early in the morning and left her husband home nursing an injured leg. Her three daughters, aged between six and 11, were in the house with their father.
Along the way, she realised that she had forgotten some seedlings she intended to plant and rushed back to the house.
“I almost fainted at the sight before me. I found my husband in bed with one of my 11-year-old twins. He was lost for words when I confronted him,” Apiyo told DN2 at Sio Port.
Apiyo’s husband is on the run after reportedly defiling his three daughters (two of them twins) and “seducing” a fourth one.
She says the children, including the six-year-old, then revealed that they had been repeatedly defiled by their 32-year-old father, who would pay for their silence with money.
The twins are in Standard Two while the six-year-old is in Baby Class.
Apiyo had been forced take her 14-year-old first-born daughter to live with her aunt after the girl’s step-father made passes at her.
The 16-year-old girl from Matayos has just dropped out of school in Standard Five. The orphaned teenager, who lives with an aunt, was born with the HIV virus.
Speaking to DN2 in Matayos recently, she said her father died of HIV/Aids in 2004, followed by her mother in 2006, also of HIV/Aids.
On May 22, 2013, a man whom she says she can identify waylaid her on her way home from the shop at about 7pm, dragged her into a bush and raped her.
“He warned me of dire consequences if I revealed what had happened,” she recalls tearfully.
She found her aunt furious when she arrived home late, but she was too scared to tell her about her ordeal. It wasn’t until the following morning that she opened up when asked why she had come home late the previous evening.
Her aunt immediately went to the young man’s home to confront him, but he was not in.
Cladd says the suspect’s mother and a family member became very hostile to her aunt.
“We later learnt that the man had disappeared but my aunt was so angry about the reception the family had given her that she did not pursue the case further,” she said amid sobs.
Cladd did not receive medical attention until a month later, when she went to Busia town to collect her dose of anti-retroviral drugs. And that’s when a pregnancy test revealed that she was a month pregnant.
Now about six months pregnant, Cladd says she does not have the energy to return to school.
“Most of the children at school laugh at me saying I am pregnant and I have the virus,” she says.
Meanwhile, the suspected rapist, who disappeared from home, is said to be in Nairobi.
The 14-year-old girl from Khunyagu in Butula smiles shyly as she cuddles her baby.
Described by her teachers and family as a promising pupil, she dropped out of school when she got pregnant. She says she was lured to an illicit affair by her church pastor, who disappeared when he realised that the Standard Six pupil was pregnant.
Accompanied by her 30-year-old mother, Nab recounted how the pastor would lure her to his house with “promises of sweet things”.
The pastor, whom they say is from a neighbouring country, fled in August.
Although Nab’s mother says she reported the matter to police and was given a P3 Form, she could not make a follow-up because of financial constraints.
The head-teacher of Nab’s school described the girl’s plight as sad and most unfortunate, saying she was one of the brightest pupils in the school.
She intends to take Nab back once the baby — now a few weeks old — is old enough to be left with its grandmother.”
When DN2 visited her home in Siwololo late last month, 15-year-old Andrea was cuddling her day-old baby.
The orphaned teenager, who lives with her aged grandmother, was forced to drop out of school because she is epileptic.
Her aunt told DN2 it was the girl’s second pregnancy; the first one ended in a miscarriage. However, the man responsible never owned up although they had a clue as to whom he was.
The family says that the man, now on the run, would come to their home when Andrea was alone and take her with him.
“When the baby was about to be born, we went to his home to find out what his plans were but he had disappeared,” Andrea’s mother said.
The young girl appeared disoriented and had trouble holding the baby on her own.
Children’s rights officials said the family alerted them and now want action taken against the man, after “negotiations” for compensation and parental responsibility failed. The family wants the man arrested and charged.
The 15-year old girl from Nambale, seen here with her mother, says she was raped by a relative in June.
The man lured her to his house and pounced on her, she explains. Her mother was away at the time and was alerted by villagers who arrested the suspect and handed him over to the area chief.
However, when the villagers rescued her, they escorted the Standard Five girl home and advised her to take a bath before going to the police station to report the incident and record statements, says her 30-year-old mother.
As a result, the suspect, who was charged in a Busia court, was released for lack of “sufficient evidence”. Because of the incident, the girl dropped out of school and the suspect’s return to the village has not helped matters.
The mother says she now has been forced to transfer Maria to a school far from home.
“This attack has left us, and especially my daughter, traumatised, what with constant threats from the suspect, who brags that given the opportunity, he would do it again and even take my daughter for keeps,” Maria’s mother said.
Young Di’s father is serving a 10-year prison term for defiling her. The father of the 11-year-old girl from Kaludeka village in Nambale was found guilty of incest and jailed last year; he had been defiling her for two years, soon after he separated from her mother.
Di, who now lives in an orphanage in Busia town, was later rescued, together with her two brothers, by children’s officials last year.
Months of defilement and beatings the girl received for resisting rape, coupled with injuries sustained from a fall from a tree, have left her legs, hands and chest defective, and doctors say she needs corrective surgery.
The home’s proprietor, Ms Stella Egesa, says she is dissatisfied with the 10-year jail term handed to the suspect, which she terms too lenient given the crime committed against the jolly little girl who loves dancing.
The mother of the seven-year-old from Bulwani in Butula claims her daughter was raped by a neighbour, but a court of law found no strong evidence to convict the man.
She said the attacker found the little girl and her siblings alone at home at around 5pm after she had dashed to the market.
After sending the younger children on an errand, the suspect lured Adeny and defiled her in their home, she claims. The man, however, refutes the allegations.
Speaking to DN2 in Butula on November 17 in the company of the withdrawn little girl, the mother said her daughter did not tell her about the incident until two days later.
“She did not wake up to go to school saying she was unwell. I bought her some anti-malaria tablets and she remained in bed for two days. On the third day she opened up.
Elders intervened and the girl was taken to a sub-district hospital in Butula, where it was discovered she had vaginal injuries.
Adeny’s mother says they reported the attack to Bumala police, and later, to Nambale, where, after further medical investigations, the suspect was arrested and charged in court.
After “protracted and dramatic hearings” of the incident that took place on March 19, the suspect was released for lack of “sufficient evidence.”
“Initially, they wanted us to negotiate and agree on compensation but I refused because they had hurt and traumatised my daughter,” she said.
In the meantime, the woman says her daughter’s health has deteriorated, and the girl is also afraid of going to school.
“She is withdrawn and no longer plays with other children. When she is sent to the shop and meet a man, she runs back home and hides,” the mother said.
When her mother got married to her step-father, Clara, now 12, was taken to live with her grandmother when she was two years old.
Her 31-year-old mother says that the family learnt too late that a close relative had begun defiling her first-born almost immediately and infected her with HIV.
“I only learnt about the defilement when I realised that my daughter had lost control of her bladder. That is when she opened up. I took the child back, defiled and infected,” the mother of four told DN2 in Butula.
The little girl’s mother says the girl was defiled by an uncle on June 13. However, Lilly continues to live in the same compound with the man who violated her in Busijo village in Samia.
When it became apparent that the man, who is in his 20s, had been defiling her, Lilly’s mother wanted the abuser apprehended and prosecuted. She says the man was caught red-handed defiling her daughter in the family house.
That is when it dawned on the family that Lilly, whom she says has been walking with difficulty since then, had been repeatedly violated by the child.
But, says the 26 year-old-mother, her husband would not hear of it. “He argued that making the issue public would bring shame to the family and the community,” said the distraught mother.
She said although she took her daughter for a medical check-up and treatment, that was as far as she could go.
She could not follow it up, she told DN2 at her home, because her husband was “uncooperative”, and also because she did not have the money to pursue the matter.
DN2 found the traumatised teenager at a rescue centre in Busia town , where she has been living.
She was taken to the shelter by a Butula-based child rights NGO after she was allegedly defiled and badly beaten by her father.
Until September, Jenny said, she had been living with her mother and step-father in a different area in the County, when her biological father picked her up from school one day, promising to transfer her to a school near his home.
He took her in to live with his wife and three children.
She said her father raped her on November 2 at about 8pm in his bedroom while her step-mother and grandmother were away.
Thereafter, he whipped her and warned her of dire consequences if she revealed what had happened. She had raw whip marks on her arms and other parts of the body.
Jenny claimed that some time after the attack, her father, 58, followed her to his sister’s house where she had sought refuge and destroyed the medical reports and medicine she had been given at a dispensary where she first sought treatment.
Reep, which took her in, later took her to the Busia County Hospital, “where it was confirmed she had been defiled; her lower abdomen was swollen, she still had wounds and had contracted Hepatitis B”.
“We were able to beat the 72-hour deadline after the violation and she was put on PEP (anti-retroviral drugs to prevent HIV infection). She was still bleeding and deeply traumatised,” said Ms Makokha.
A police officer who handled the case said the charges of defilement and assault against the man were likely to be adjusted after the teenager had undergone further medical tests.
Jenny told of how, before defiling her, her father had told that her that he intended to infect her with a disease “so that I could, in turn, spread it to other men”.
Need help? Some organisations that deal with child abuse cases
Goal Kenya Tel: +254 202721999, 020-2724686, 020-3876944
The CRADLE-The Children Foundation
Te: +254 2 3874575, Cell: +254 722 201805,+254 734 798199
Boy Child Agenda +254 722 208958, +254 722 762543
Centre for Child Protection and Rescue Tel: +254 2 609304
African Network for the Prevention and Protection against
Child Abuse and Neglect – Kenya Chapter (ANPPCAN Kenya) Tel: + 254 2 2722835
Shout The Silence: Support for Survivors of Boy Child
Sexual Abuse Tel:0771 098444
Masculinity Institute – MAIN Kenya
Tel: +254 020 235 3000, Cell: +254721885421
Girl Child Network +254 20 6004510, +254 20 6007137
Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW)
Tel: +254 20 3860640, +254 720 357664
Heshima Kenya Tel: 0735 912333, 0725 881924
Kimbilio Trust Tel: 0719 402391, 0725 853511
LVCTTel: + 254 02 2646692, + 254 733 333268,
20 2714590, 0722 20361
Nairobi Child Protection Team Tel: 0722483793,
+254 20 3873990, +254 2 3861086
Gender Violence Recovery Centre-Nairobi Women’s Hospital
Tel: 020-3862772/3-8, Cell: 0722202566
Heshima Kenya Tel: 0735912333, 0725881924
SUPKEM / Biafra Medical Clinic Tel: 0700 080 777, 0738933055
Action Aid Kenya Tel: +254 02 (51) – 2215691