Community elders, education stakeholders and the clergy have been urged to upscale mediation efforts to stem spiraling cases of incest and gender-based violence in Kitui County.
Speaking on Tuesday in Kitui during a meeting with the clergy and cultural elders on gender-based violence, the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) Gender Specialist Joyce Muchena lamented that the breakdown of cultural values, drug and substance abuse and improved levels of women empowerment has precipitated gender based violence.
“Men primarily and traditionally were the sole breadwinners for their families. Today, there is a paradigm shift from the cultural roles attached to women. Since women are also fending for families, men have resorted to physical violence to assert their control and authority,” said Muchena.
The gender specialist called on stakeholders to spearhead sensitization programmes across the county cascading them to the villages to curb the rising cases of incest and gender based violence.
Commenting on land conflicts, she said that lack of adjudication and documentation has triggered conflicts amongst siblings and sometimes cases have ended up in court or death.
“Women bear the brunt of disinheritance of land since culturally they are land users and not owners. The constitution, however, is clear on the right of ownership and women have the same rights as men,” said Muchena.
Retired Anglican Church Bishop Benjamin Nzimbi decried rising cases of rape and defilement adding that some are not reported as the locals prefer village Kangaroo court’s mediation.
Nzimbi said that retrogressive cultural practices will not be tolerated to interfere with the livelihoods of the school going minors adding that ‘such victims endure despicable trauma throughout their lives since they live with their childhood perpetrators.
The former clergy disclosed that chiefs and their assistants are abetting mediation over rape, incest or defilement cases in the county which does not deter perpetrators from the vice.
Nzimbi lamented that rape cases are spiraling each day and that majority of the perpetrators are fathers or close family relatives adding that it’s criminal to meditate over such cases and those culpable chiefs should face the law.
“I propose the creation of the village Ombudsman to solve simmering gender-based violence cases. Similarly, community elders should devise new methods to combat incest cases through counselling,” she added.
The Bishop said that this scenario is precipitated by incessant dissuasion by emissaries sent by perpetrators to 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 Nzimbi.
Kitui County Gender Director Lucienne 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.
Ndila said vulnerable children under the care of single mothers are worst hit, “since the mother has to fend for herself and the child. She sometimes leaves the child under a care giver who in turn defiles the minor.”
“We have witnessed cases where a father defiles his own child. 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.
Kitui County Executive for Gender, Sports and Culture Hellena Ken 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,” Hellena lamented.
She said that the government will upscale its efforts to hold several barazas in the remote areas of the Sub-Counties to ensure the message concerning children rights is cascaded to the grassroots.
By Yobesh Onwong’a