Little girls should spend their days playing, dreaming and learning. Yet little girls in Samburu, a county in northern Kenya, are being robbed of their childhood and ultimately their future. At the tender age of 10, and sadly sometimes even younger, a Samburu girl is prepared for forced marriage to be the second, third, or even fourth wife to a man who is often the same age as her father or in some cases, grandfather. These young girls are often married off in exchange for just eight cows, which are given to the girl’s father and uncles as a bride price.
And it isn’t just the horror of forced marriage these girls endure. In the Samburu culture, on the morning of the wedding ceremony a bride is forced to undergo the gruesome practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), an act that violates both national and international laws. She is then handed over to her new “husband.”
In July 2015, staff from our office in East Africa traveled to Samburu County to rescue two young girls from such a fate. When they arrived, one of the girls, just 13 years old, had already been married off to the area chief, a 53-year-old man. The second girl was scheduled to be married off just four days later.
Unfortunately, the young girl forcibly married to the chief had already undergone FGM and was living with the chief. With the help of Mararal Police, we rescued this young girl. As a result, the police detained her “husband,” the area chief, and the girl was taken to a local hospital to receive the medical care she desperately needed as a result of the FGM and rape.
The following day, the chief was arraigned in court and charged with marrying an underage girl and aiding in the FGM of the young girl. He pleaded not guilty and the case is ongoing. We will continue to fight for the prosecution of this child abuser.
The second girl was to be mutilated on the following Saturday morning, so we had to act fast to reach the place before the marriage ceremony took place. Thankfully, our team was able to rescue her the day before her intended wedding and FGM ceremony. The young girl’s extremely brave and caring brother assisted in her rescue by hiding her from their father and bringing her to the District Officer’s office to wait for our team.
Both girls are now in a private and secure school where they are safe from their abusers and can begin to heal. Despite their past traumas, we pray they will now be able to dream of a future full of opportunity.
But these are just the stories of two girls. There is still much work to be done for the many more lives who must be saved.
We stand ready to continue rescuing the girls of Samburu, one at a time.
We will also continue to engage legally, using the judicial system to create a deterrent for such illegal behavior. We have joined a Constitution Petition at the Nakuru High Court as Interested Parties to ensure that a 54-year-old man who “married” a 14-year-old girl is prosecuted for his crimes. We will argue why such prosecutions are mandated under both Kenyan law and its international obligations to protect the innocence of young girls within Kenyan borders. These cases will then serve as precedent as we continue our legal battle to end this atrocious practice.
Our attorneys on the ground in Kenya have also been in Court this month fighting for justice in the face of corruption. A local politician, Member of County Assembly, has married and impregnated multiple young girls. The community filed a petition declaring him unfit to hold office. He then used his influence and networks to try to bribe and intimidate his victims who have brought the petition against him. When they informed our office of these developments, we raced into court to get orders against the politician pending the hearing on May 31st. The court granted the orders and the official has been served in the past few days. The orders also directed us to go to a new court closer to Samburu.
We are committed to providing protections for innocent children, dismantling an environment of impunity for child marriage and FGM, and protecting the gallant government officials who seek to protect the life, freedom, and liberty of the Samburu girls.
We are continuing to rescue young girls from evil, ensure they are placed in safe schools, educate the local communities about protecting their children, hold corrupt officials accountable even as they intimidate the victims who are shining a light into the darkness, and ensure that the perpetrators of this cruel child abuse are brought to justice. We have won victories in court already, but we must keep fighting. We are also taking the plight of these young girls directly to the United Nations (U.N.).
The sexual enslavement of young girls must end.
Join the fight today. Shine a light into the darkness. And Be Heard by signing our petition below.
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