Cases of gender based violence and teenage pregnancies are on the rise in Kitui County, due to breakdown of cultural values, drug and substance abuse and improved levels of women empowerment
Speaking in Kitui town on Tuesday, the County Director of Gender Affairs, Luciana Ndila said that traditionally men were the sole breadwinners for their families, but currently there is a paradigm shift from the cultural roles attached to women and since women are also fending for families, men have resorted to physical violence to assert their control and authority.
Ndila is now calling on stakeholders to spearhead sensitization programmes across the county and cascade them to the villages, in order to curb the rising cases of gender based violence.
“The establishment of gender desks in 17 police stations manned by three officers each and 15 police posts manned by two officers each totaling to 32 desks in Kitui County brings to the fore the need to empower communities to report gender based violence cases for action,” she said.
Commenting on land conflicts, the director said that lack of requisite adjudication documents has triggered conflict amongst siblings and sometimes cases have ended up in court or even resulted to death.
“Women bear the blunt of disinheritance of land since culturally they are land users and not owners. However, the constitution is clear on the right of ownership and women have the same rights as men,” said Ndila.
Fiona Njeru, Kitui County Deputy Regional Coordinator for National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) decried rising cases of rape and defilement, adding that more cases went unreported as residents prefer out of court mediation.
Njeru said that retrogressive cultural practices will not be allowed to interfere with livelihoods of the school going pupils adding that ‘such victims endure despicable trauma throughout their lives, since they live with their perpetrators.”
Last year, over 500, 000 school girls in the county benefited from the government drive to provide free sanitary pads against a backdrop of rising rape cases.
The County Women representative, Dr. Irene Kasalu has issued a stern warning against chiefs abetting mediation on rape or defilement cases in the county.
She said it amounts to a criminal act to meditate over such incidents, adding that chiefs found culpable will face the law.
Kasalu lamented that rape cases are spiraling each day, with majority of the perpetrators being fathers.
The women rep. said that this scenario is precipitated by incessant dissuasion by emissaries sent by the perpetrators to try and subvert justice by ignoring government arbitration agencies, in a bid to allow the intervention of kangaroo courts moderated by the elders to determine the matter.
“Parents of the affected children sometimes fail to take the defiled child to hospital for proper medical examination and in some other instances, witnesses fail to show up in court or volunteer to write statements,” lamented the Gender Director.
Ndila disclosed that due to high poverty levels, parents are persuaded to accept compensation for the injustice meted on their children at the expense of the child’s rights.
She said vulnerable children under the care of single mothers are the worst hit, ‘since the mother has to fend for herself and the child, while sometimes they leave the child under a care giver who in turn defiles the minor.’
“We have witnessed cases where fathers defile their own children. We have arrested a teacher, a grandfather and even close male relatives involved in defiling young children aged as low as three years,” she said.
The Director said increased drug and substance abuse among the youth and the elderly is a factor that contributes to rising cases of child defilement.
“When a child comes across a youth high on drugs, she becomes vulnerable and it is easy for that child to be lured and eventually defiled,” she lamented.
On her part, Njeru said the government should upscale it efforts to hold several barazas in the remote areas of the county to ensure information concerning children rights is cascaded to the grassroots.
“The plight of the girl child is at stake considering the rising defilement cases. The elders should re-look into their roles and forsake the kangaroo courts. Let the judiciary handle defilement cases,” she said.
By Yobesh Onwong’a