The government has embarked on a campaign to profile and arrest pedophiles to stem the spiraling teenage pregnancies in Kitui County, which have hit over 3,000 since schools closed in March.
Speaking at Mavoko informal settlement in Mwingi Town after inspecting Kazi Mtaani activities, Kitui County Commissioner John Ondego warned those impregnating under-age girls that they will face the full force of the law.
“Chiefs, their assistants and the police are on the ground apprehending the culprits who have defiled and impregnated girls below 18 years. It is a criminal offence punishable by law to have sexual intercourse with a minor,” warned Ondego.
The administrator said that once schools reopen, the girl child should be protected to ensure her future is not all gloom due to preventable early pregnancy.
“Similarly, under-age teenagers, both boys and girls, who will be found culpable for involvement in teen pregnancies will be arrested and prosecuted accordingly,” said Ondego.
The administrator also warned parents against concealing the pregnancy of their under-age daughters and advised them to report to the authorities for appropriate action.
“We also are aware parents and village elders have been holding kangaroo courts to mediate between the culprits and the aggrieved families. We shall not allow the rights of the children to be trampled upon, those found in contravention of the law will be arrested and taken to court,” said Ondego.
The County Commissioner disclosed that some of the pregnancies could be as a result of sexual violence, which has been projected to rise during Covid-19 lockdowns.
“At least, this is true judging from lessons learned during the pandemic lockdowns, where the closure of schools resulted in an increase in physical and sexual violence, teenage pregnancies, and unsafe abortions,” noted Ondego.
Commenting on Kazi Mtaani proceeds, the County Commissioner urged those who are enrolled in the programme not to misuse their gains but venture into other income generating activities to multiply their revenue resources.
He said that the programme aims to provide a form of social protection for workers whose prospects for daily work was disrupted by the containment policies put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus in the country.
“In a nutshell, this initiative is structured as a local economic recovery strategy which aims to restore interrupted economic activities in informal settlements while creating a public good,” said the administrator.
Ondego noted that the programme apart from creating employment opportunities among young people from the informal settlements, will help local suppliers of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) such as gloves and gumboots access a ready market.
“The creation of public good such as garbage collection, opening up clogged drainages and clearing bushes will ensure we have cleaner environment while putting money in the pockets of the youth to fend for their families,” said the County Commissioner.
Kitui Children Officer Augustine Nyamai said that parental laxity, lengthy closure of schools and poverty has exposed the girl-child to pedophiles.
“We suspect that there could be more unreported cases within the community that have not been documented. We have joined hands with security agencies, Ministry of Health and NGOs such as World Vision to mitigate this vice,” said Nyamai.
Further, the Children Officer said that with the loss of livelihoods particularly in low-income households, some children may be forced into income-generating activities to support their families for survival.
“Lengthy school closure has stopped the provision of school meals and sanitary towels, which children from disadvantaged families rely on significantly,” noted Nyamai.