Violence against Children Needs to Stop

By Ann Wambui

Violence exists in various forms. Child violence is “common” in hundreds of Kenyan as well as international households. This exists in sexual, physical and emotional violence forms. Any type of violence against a child is critical as some children are not able to grow elephant skins and move on past the experiences. The trauma carries on even in adulthood and the source may not always realised.

The 2010 Violence Against Children Study reveals that 66% of girls and 73% of boys experience physical violence before age 18. About 31.9% of girls and 17.5% of boys experienced sexual violence. 25.8% boys and 31.9% girls reported emotional violence. This same study notes that perpetrators of violence against children in Kenya are usually not strangers but family members, people of authority or of trust. Violence against boys also goes unreported, often because of stigma and shame.

In Kenya, The Children Act is being reviewed to make it more responsive to children matters and emerging child protection issues. The Department of Children services has been working with United Nations International Children Emergency Funds (UNICEF) to implement the Violence against Children Response Plan.

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Girls are more vulnerable to violence as which can be attributed to gender discrimination and the beliefs that females are less vocal in the society and serve a purpose in a specific space in the community. Violence against women has been viewed as “normal” in some communities and some women have come to accept it which in my opinion I think is ridiculous. There are many other ways to solve disputes in home than physical violence. And I say this because just recently, my mother and I were talking about a place she went to in Marigat and some of the women were confessing how their husbands beat them if they are late to get home. Same thing goes for the girls. And this is 6pm we are speaking about.

Citing the recent cases, an 11-year-old herds-boy lost both hands after he was scalded with boiling water for stealing maize flour at Kargi in Marsabit County. So what transpired is that the young lad went into someone’s kitchen and made Ugali as he was hungry and the house owner found him just before he ate. As distressing as imagining this scenario is, the 40-year-old man boiled water, tied the boy’s hands with a rope and hanged him on a tree. The man then immersed the lad’s hands in the suburbia with boiling water and afterwards heated a metal rod and burned him on various parts of the body. This is some serious violation against the resident of Kargi. I can imagine the neighbour must have been frustrated that the flour he might have planned for the family for the week but this is a CHILD. His only “fault” was being hungry. Again, I feel like this kind of punishment was totally unnecessary.

Such kind of physical and emotional violences is what the Violence against Children Response Plan hopes to address. The effects of violence in this case has resulted to the minor losing both his limbs as a result of the third degree burns which worsened as he was found in a shrub two days after the incident. The perpetrator was later arrested by home guards and taken to the police but his friends attacked the post and set him free. In a country where police have a duty to protect its citizens, there has been no update of whether further pursuit was done to serve justice for the minor. The man should be held accountable for his actions.

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The other case is of a 14-year-old girl from Igembe South, Meru county who succumbed to Female Genital Mutilation in December 2018. According to the postmortem results, Jelida died from Type 2 FGM and cardiorespiratory arrest due to severe Pneumonia and Sepsis.

Article 53 of the constitution states; 1) Every child has the right—(d) to be protected from abuse, neglect, harmful cultural practices, all forms of violence, inhuman treatment and punishment, and hazardous or exploitative labour. Jelida has none of her family members fight for her as her parents who authorised the procedure have fled from home in fear of being arrested by police.

Article 44 Section (3) states that “A person shall not compel another person to perform, observe, or undergo any cultural practice or rite.”

The circumciser who is lose at the moment but of course with investigations conducted she can be arrested and punished by law as stipulated; “If the FGM procedure results in death, Article 19(2) states that the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.”

Female Genital Mutilation also known as female circumcision is any procedure that intentionally changes or causes injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is observed in some communities in the name of religion, social and cultural requirements that are harmful to children.

Violence against children should be harshly condemned as their childhood experience  goes a long way to shape their personalities and characters. The psychological trauma will always haunted and asking themselves if they ever did something wrong. We need to protect our children in all ways possible. Create a safe space for children to speak up when something upsets them and encourage them to be vocal about things that do not sit right by them.

The government and necessary departments of the law have a duty to fulfil to the citizens through making follow ups and investigations to bring justice to those who deserve it and punishing perpetrators breaking the law.

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