Where girls flee own homes for fear of incest, rape

Stories of men who have gone missing after defiling own daughters abound

Cases of incest and rape are so rampant in Busia that young girls are fleeing their homes for fear of being molested by male relatives.

While addressing media at her office, Rural Education and Economic Enhancement Programme (REEP) director, Mary Makokha said many of the victims are forced to live with relatives and good Samaritans, following hostility in their own homes.

The child rights campaigner said most of the girls are reportedly coerced into these odd relationships and end up dropping out of school due to pregnancies.

“Cases of fathers and uncles defiling their daughters are high, but are rarely reported. In other cases, the men target stepdaughters force them into such relationships as a condition to get any form of assistance, including payment of school fees,” she said.

The rights group (REEP), which has become synonymous with the fight against sexual violence against children and women in the area, has documented many such cases, including one in which a 16-year-old pupil was gang-raped and thrown into a pit latrine.

Ms Makokha, while decrying the overwhelming cases, said in one of the cases, when a father was asked why he molested his own child, he blamed it on “the devil and dark forces.”

According to the rights activist, parents of some of the victims are to blame for the perpetuation of the vice because they are always quick to get into “casual local arrangements and negotiations.”

These sort of arrangements are very common, with parents getting compensation in form of livestock, money or even land. This, as Makokha and many other local activists have noted before, doesn’t offer justice to the victim.

In some cases, parents fail to offer adequate security to their daughters, seeing as some sleep in the kitchen, most of which are detached from the main houses, exposing them to male relatives with ill motives.

In one odd incident, a man got arrested in Bulwani village of Butula after he defiled a five-year-old girl. He reportedly broke into a kitchen, where the girl, with her three grown up sisters, were sleeping, grabbed her and defiled her behind the house before her sisters raised alarm.

Strangely, the relatives of the abused child, including her grand-parents and the culprit’s parents, demanded his release, claiming they wanted to settle the matter at home.

“The families claimed that they agreed because they didn’t want the poor man to suffer in jail. The victim’s sisters, who had been lined to record statements, were warned against it, forcing the case to collapse,” said Makokha.

Stories of men who have gone missing after defiling own daughters abound in Busia. A memorable one in Sio Port area involves a mother who had gone to till her land, only to discover she had forgotten the seeds she intended to plant in the house. Upon rushing back home, she found her husband in bed, fondling her 11-year-old daughter.

Most of the fathers and uncles buy the minors silence using money and their favourite delicacies, such as chips.

Yet another tale is of a 14-year-old girl from Khunyagu in Butula who dropped out of school last year after getting impregnated by a local church pastor, who disappeared without a trace.

Ms Makokha blamed the increase of incest and rape on stigma, intimidation and poor communication between victims and their authoritarian parents. She is calling for justice and protection for girls in the area.


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