, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 14 – Jane’s (not her real name) painful story started on Tuesday night and triumphantly ended on Saturday.
She played the role of a wife for some 72 hours before she was rescued though already defiled.
The only “excuse” her father used to marry her off at that tender age was for “lacking the brains” to excel in her studies.
During last term’s examinations, Jane – a resident of Kajiado County – managed to become position eight, in a class of 40 students.
This coming August, the class four pupil was scheduled to undergo Female Genital Mutilation.
Already, the girl though now under safe hands had been defiled but this, she has vowed will not stop her dream to become a teacher.
In a tone of vulnerability, she says, “I did not want to get married. I want to study up to that point where God will let me.”
She knows of her challenges by names and numbers- a Kenyan girl whose love for Mathematics and Science is unrivalled.
Until her rescue last week, Jane has already started playing wife to an older man.
The man’s grandmother was grooming her for the onerous task.
A cow that she was to milk twice a day had been handed over to her as part of her responsibility that would have included bearing children for her husband – a predator preying on a minor.
“This really pained me,” a visibly distraught Jane said.
She knows pain, as it is defined by her ordeal.
On December 8, Jane unsuccessfully tried to reach out to the area chief to see whether he could stop her “marriage.”
That very night and against her will, she was taken to her to be husband.
“At night, the father to the man that I was supposed to marry came to our home on a motorbike and picked me up. He then took me to their homestead where I was to start life as a wife,” a traumatized Jane narrated.
All along, Jane’s mother had been ‘beaten’ to submission and had been warned against raising alarm.
Yet another case of forced early child marriage in the country, that begs the question, how many more go undetected?
A question no one seems to have an answer.
According to Equality Now, a Non-Governmental Organisation fighting for the protection and promotion of the human rights of women and girls around the world, the national prevalence of child marriage is estimated to be at 23 per cent.
Kajiado, Narok, Kisii, Migori, Garissa, Isiolo, Marsabit and West Pokot Counties lead in this front.
If not rescued, Jane would have become part of the worrying statistics. She lives to tell her ordeal as a survivor.
She was rescued over the weekend by Beyond Hope, a rights group based in Kajiado and a partner of the Equality Now. The Organisations runs a rescue centre for girls.
“We found her inside a house and she was alone. When she saw us, she got scared and started asking us to forgive her while crying. So, we assured her that she was safe because she is just a baby,” Beyond Hope founder Dorcas Parit said.
“This is the worst case that I have seen because she is so young.”
Over the December holiday, the Organisation rescued 10 other girls who had been circumcised.
Equality Now Programme Officer Felister Gitonga said, “this case is just a fraction of a bigger problem. Equality Now is extremely concerned about the high rate of child marriage across Kenya, especially in regions where FGM is practiced. As it stands, the national prevalence is 23 percent, and this is alarming because child marriage has numerous harmful effects on young girls. It takes them through a cycle of discrimination and poverty.
They are not able to attend school, they are not able to take care of their families because they are too young, and it exposes them to a lot of gender-based violence in addition to increasing complications during childbirth.”
According to Gitonga, child brides experience a lot of violence “because it’s common for husbands to think that it is okay to physically and emotionally abuse them.”
In Kajiado County, she says cases of FGM are interlinked to child marriage because it is a cultural process.
“People believe that if a girl goes through FGM then she is ready for marriage and any other thing including sexual relations. This is problematic because you find that after FGM, the community sees her as a woman, not as a child. She is wrongly treated as an adult who is ready to become a mother and a wife despite her young age,” Gitonga asserted.
Authorities have vowed to act against the perpetrators in Jane’s case.
“It is good that we were able to rescue her and take her to the hospital as we seek to ensure that the perpetrators are taken to court,” Kajiado Deputy County Commissioner, Lawrence Kinyua said.
“My caution and reminder to the public is that the law is very unfriendly to those who disregard the rights of the girl child, especially now. The law cannot treat such people with any mercy so whoever wants to face the force of the law should try us.”