A boy in one of Nairobi’s informal settlements speaks of his ordeal after he was forced into unnatural acts that in the face of law are not treated as serious as defilement
Kevin Kamau*, a nine-year- old from Mihang’o estate in Nairobi, has been through a traumatic experience no child deserves to go through.
A few months ago he was a bubbly, playful boy. Today he is a pale shadow of his former self. He walks with difficulties and can hardly muster the courage to look anyone in the eye. He speaks in a whisper, afraid that other people will learn of his ordeal.
Kamau is a victim of bestiality after street children who roam the area forced him into it.
Kamau, a Standard One pupil in a local primary school used to join his friends at a nearby playground to play football and pastime, especially during weekends.
One Saturday after playing football, some of his friends suggested they walk to Njiru. In the group were other boys with dogs. When they reached a place called ‘Site’ where there are unfinished construction sites they met older dishevelled boys and they joined them. After a while they started engaging in sexual acts with the dogs.
“When I first saw it, I was in shock. I wanted to run, but then the older boys threatened me with a knife. I was forced to do the same as the others watched and laughed,” he says.
After the traumatising experience, Kamau didn’t say a word to his mother. He went through the same experience several times. However, when his mother started to notice he was withdrawn, she became concerned. “He wasn’t playful and energetic as before. I also observed that he walked differently; like he was in pain.
When I insisted on knowing what was wrong, he said that he felt pain while urinating. That’s when I took him to the doctor,” his mother says. Although he was initially scared to speak out, the doctor finally convinced him to speak of his ordeal. “I was in shock as I couldn’t believe my son would be exposed to such behaviour,” his mother says.
Dr Sharon Ombati of Shalom Medical centre in Mihang’o handled Kamau’s case. Speaking via telephone, she says the boy had engaged in an act called bestiality.
But is it possible that the boy contracted a sexually transmitted infection? Dr Sharon says it’s unlikely for one to catch a sexually transmitted disease because the genetic composition of animals and humans are different. However, this is not to say that a person can’t catch other diseases through sex with an animal.
She explains that the boy had contracted brucellosis, a type of zoonotic disease transmitted from animals to humans. It can either be transmitted through contact with the animal’s blood, semen or urine.
When this contact happens the body evokes a reaction and then the symptoms start to manifest. They include rashes on the pubic area, pain when passing urine, swelling of the reproductive organs, fever and loss of appetite. Antibiotics are part of the treatment for the bacterial infection.
Dr Sharon explains that she has treated many such cases in the area, especially among street boys who walk into the centre with severe infections. Sometimes she sees worse conditions when circumcising the boys, which she does for free. Bestiality is a crime under the law, but has not been given the same attention as other sexual offences such as sodomy, defilement and rape.
It is provided for in the Penal Code under sections 162 (b) and 163. Section 162 (b) of the aforementioned statute provides that any person who has carnal knowledge of an animal, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for 14 years.
Section 163 provides that any person who attempts to commit any of the offences specified in section 162 is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.
However, the Penal Code does not define the term bestiality. Speaking on phone the assistant chief of Mihang’o estate, Evans Kinyua, explains that the office has not yet received any complaints of bestiality. He says victims should not be embarrassed to report such incidences.
“The law will definitely deal with those who break it and we are ready to take any action against the perpetrators,” he says. The implications of bestiality can be quite extreme, especially if it involves children.
Psychological assessment is important to ensure that the child does not experience any social dysfunction, explains Jane Ngoiri, a child psychologist. She says the child might start to experience low self-esteem, become withdrawn, start to exhibit negative social behaviour and psychological stress.
She says progressive counselling is important for the child as well as the caregiver. “In a case where the child does not get any help to relieve the psychological torment, this child grows to be detached emotionally, they develop hostility as they grow and also feelings of less self-worth and ultimately this may affect their social life later on,” she says. *The minor’s name has been changed.