The red light has been raised over the increase of sexual abuse and violence among school-going children in Mombasa. County Director of Children Services Elizabeth Mbuka says there are no statistics to support the same but the prevalence is high.
She said cases of homosexuality, rape and defilement of young children in the county are rising, leading to high dropout rates in schools. She said most of the cases were not being reported as the incidents are “quietly discussed in the dark” by parents of the minors, perpetrators and their relatives.
“It is sad that families use this as a fountain of wealth at the expense of the young boy or girl whose scar may never be healed,” she said.
According to Mbuka, in the last three months, 500 cases of child sexual abuse or violence have been dealt with at the Children Services Department, but the actual number is higher as many incidents go unreported.
“It is unfortunate for an adult to even think of defiling a three-year-old. Such a child, if not attended to properly, would also in future repeat the same action as vengeance purposes, so this turns out to be a vicious cycle,” said Mbuka.
The sentiments were echoed by Maendeleo ya Wanawake Nyali representative, Mariam Bashir, who blamed retrogressive cultural practices, including early marriage and child brides, for the vice.
She pleaded with Muslim clerics and other religious leaders to intensify preaching and sermons against the practice so that it can be eradicated to ensure children attain basic education.
Bashir also appealed to the government to scrutinise identification cards of local men who travel back from the Middle East in search of brides before providing them with legal marriage documents.
“It is sad that parents give away their teenage daughters in marriage to men just because they work in Saudi Arabia or Dubai yet they don’t know them.
This has increased the number of innocent girls being recruited into al Shabaab and ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham),” she said. Bashir said demand for nine-year-old girls by white tourists was high in Shanzu. She said parents were responsible for the growing trend but also blamed the permissiveness in the society for escalating cases of sex tourism.
“In our days, parents were cautious of who associated with their young girls, but today, love for material things has blinded our maternal instincts,” said Bashir. Kisauni Deputy County Commissioner Julius Kavita issued a warning to tourists who sexually exploit children, some inside palatial villas and hotels.
He said aping foreign cultures at the expense of our societal moral fabric was unfortunate and uncalled for. Kavita also warned parents against introducing family planning methods to children, saying this could have irreversible effects on them.
“How does a parent benefit when a mzungu cohabits with their daughter for a month then returns to his country of origin?” asked Kavita.
Sexual abuse and related activities are rampant in Machafuko, Mafisini, Toa Tugawe, Mwakirunge, Kongowea and Ziwa la Ng’ombe. The administrator ordered chiefs in these locations to arrest parents of children who fail to attend school, saying this was against the Children’s Act.