She wears a shy demeanour and does not speak much. Janet* Atieno, has been epileptic since birth, and lives with her grandmother and two of her children In Kanyairo village about 20 km from Siaya town.
The grandmother, a peasant farmer, is the breadwinner to both Janet* and the children. The 27 year old was orphaned at a young age and even though she is able to read and write her comprehension of facts is questionable. Her grandmother says that her metal capability seems to deteriorate as time goes by.
Janet* has had two births yet no man has claimed responsibility for the children laments her grandmother. Some of the men Janet* mention to be the fathers of her children are decent members of the society and have all denied responsibility.
One is a school principal to a secondary school in the village.
“I think some men take advantage of her situation when she experiences an epileptic fit or because she appears to be a little mentally challenged and cannot negotiate well,” explains a community health Volunteer who works in Janet’s village.
The grandmother deeply troubled and frustrated by the state of affairs thought it wise to start Janet on a contraceptive method after consulting other relatives of the girl. None of the family members has thought of pursuing legal intervention about the pregnancies though.
They find it hard to ascertain whether Janet* and the claimed fathers of her children were in a consensual sexual union or whether it was coerced; she does not mention that explicitly.
A study released by FIDA-K in 2009 revealed that disabled women are up to three times more likely to be victims of physical and sexual abuse than their non-disabled counterparts are, which makes them more at risk.
What does the law say?
The law in Section 146 of the penal code criminalises having sex with an imbecile. If found liable one is supposed to face jail, term coupled with hard labour for 14 years.
Sexual offences act section 43 (4) outlaws having sexual intercourse with a mentally unstable person since they do not have the legal standing to consent.
These two legal provisions are enough grounds to prosecute or have investigations about the alleged sex offences.
The mother also has the right to seek for support from the men responsible for her pregnancies.
According to article 53 1E of the constitution every child has a right to parental care and protection including parental responsibility of the mother and father to provide for the child whether they are married or not.
Section 146 of the penal code criminalises having sex with an imbecile. If found liable one is supposed to face jail, term coupled with hard labour for 14 years.
The law has clearly put in place measures to bring to justice those who sexually or physically abuse mentally challenged people but it seems few if not all know about them.
If these laws were followed to the latter, maybe Janet would not have been having two children or some men could be serving jail term for abuse or better still, they would be taking responsibility for the kids.
The subject’s name has been altered to protect her identity.
Call us free on 0800724500 or contact these numbers for help: Child line Kenya-116 and Health Assistance Kenya-1195.
If you wish to contact JOOTRH Gender based Violence Centre, Call 07141388868 or beep for medical attention.