Kenya: Over 250 girls rescued from early marriage

The Nation - Nairobi
More than 250 girls in Malindi District have been rescued from forced marriage and sent back to school this year.
The chairman of the Malindi Association for the Promotion of Girl Child, Mr Maurice Mangi, told the Sunday Nation that most of the girls are aged between 10 and 14 and had been married to men old enough to be their grandfathers.
"Some of the parents of these girls were taken to court and charged, while other cases were resolved locally," he said.

Recently, he added, a father who had married off his 12-year-old daughter to an 80-year-old man was taken to court and sentenced to four years' imprisonment.

Mr Mangi said the practice was denying girls the right to education.

"Early marriages and pregnancies cause 45 per cent of school dropouts in the district every year," he said.

He was accompanied by the Magarini Initiative for Community Development field assistant, Mr Emmanuel Ngumbao Bulushi. "At night, you notice elderly tourists lurking in the darkness to trap young African girls," Mr Mangi noted.

"Others frequent night clubs for a quick catch.

"This has had a very negative impact on the education of our girls."

He said the vice is encouraged by cultural practices which value the education of boys more than that of girls.

Mr Mangi also blamed tourism for worsening the situation.

The official expressed surprise that teachers were increasingly being involved in love affairs with pupils and impregnating them.

He urged the provincial administration and the ministry of Education to find ways to protect young girls.

"Many girls run to Malindi, Mambrui, Watamu and other tourist centres, especially during the high season, where they engage in commercial sex and forget about school," Mr Bulushi said.

He added that poverty among parents also makes them "sell off" their young daughters to supplement family incomes and pay fees for their sons.

Mr Mangi urged the provincial administration and the ministry of Education to put in place preventive measures to protect the girls.

By Daniel Nyassy
The Nation (Nairobi), September 3, 2006