Shoddy investigations, an indifferent society and lack of proper legal mechanisms have been cited as some of the major reasons why many child sexual offenders end up being set off the hook.
The Machakos Senior Resident Magistrate (SRM), Yusuf Abdallah Shikanda while speaking at Ngomeni Primary School on Wednesday during celebrations to mark this year’s Day of African Child said that as judicial officers, they were concerned about the high number of child sexual offenses being recorded at the Machakos law court on a weekly basis, most of which end up being dismissed.
He said as judicial officers, they were at a loss as to how to address the scenario as the conviction of each case must be based on the available evidence being brought before the court.
“As a court, we must determine the merits of each case on the basis of evidence available before us. However, when such evidence is lacking, such cases will automatically be thrown out and the suspects set free,” he told the media.
Shikanda said the genesis of shoddy investigations lies at the family level as most relatives are reluctant to report defilement cases especially where a close family member is the culprit.
The SRM said in such cases, the incidences were usually reported to second parties who may not necessarily be related to the affected and thus not get much headway in pursing the matter to the logical conclusion.
He is now challenging parents to take up their role to assist in curbing the vice before it ruins the future of their children by reporting any form of sexual offences to the relevant authorities.
The officer has further advised parents against tampering with crucial evidence such as soiled undergarments in the event of their children being sexually abused as they play a critical role in sustaining the case in court.
“Most defilement cases are reported when it is too late when crucial evidence has been tampered with. In such instances, it becomes quite impossible to sustain such a case in court leading to denial of justice to the affected victim,” he explained.
The officer has also called for the retraining of police officers handling defilement cases to avoid the trend of bungling up investigations.
Shikanda has also called upon the government to establish special courts to handle children related cases noting that the current arrangement in which such cases were heard alongside other matters were not conducive to the victims.
He cited Masii area in Mwala Sub County as among the leading places in sexual abuse cases most of which involved close members of the family.
“Our records at Machakos court indicate that most sexual abuse cases emanate from Masii area. Sadly, most perpetrators are close relatives including parents who are left to take care of the children but end up sexually abusing them,” he added.
Others who attended the function included, the Machakos County Children Officer, Salome Muthama, her deputy Emily Kimanzi alongside Principal Magistrate, Carol Ocharo and Resident Magistrate Catherine Kisiangani.
The Day of African Child is a commemoration in honour of hundreds of black students killed in Soweto, South Africa in1976 during the clamour by Africans to have quality education.
This year’s theme is “Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development” and builds on the momentum of last year’s one which was “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for Children in Africa: Accelerating Protection, Empowerment and Equal Opportunity”.
By Samuel Maina