Authorities in Kenya have rescued a 12-year-old girl who was married off to two men within a month. The girl, from Narok County west of the capital Nairobi, was first married off to a 51-year-old man and then to a 35-year-old before government officials and a children’s rights campaigner came to her rescue.
It is a crime in Kenya to marry someone who is under 18 years of age but when the girl turned 12 some weeks ago, her father decided to first marry her off to the 51-year-old man.
She said she told her father that she would love to continue her education when school reopens but her father said that wasn’t necessary.
“Girls are born so that people can eat. All I want is to get my dowry,” the father reportedly told her.
The girl first ran to a relative’s house but her father caught her and brought her back to the old man, who had promised to give four cows for dowry. Still, the girl protested but was beaten up by her male cousins. After two weeks in that first marriage, she escaped.
“I escaped and since I could not go back to my father’s home for fear of being reprimanded, I eloped with a 35-year-old man, who was married,” she told The Standard.
Joshua Kaputa, the children’s rights campaigner who helped rescue the girl said: “We were tipped off by the public that there was a girl that had been married off twice. We trailed her for three days and we managed to rescue her.”
Kaputa has since found a rescue center for the girl, saying that there is an increase in child marriages, especially among the Maasai community in Narok County, due to poverty and schools being closed over coronavirus concerns.
“Girls in Maasai land are facing a bleak future in the wake of Covid-19. If concerted efforts are not made to save them we shall have no girl reporting back to school by next year due to FGM, early marriage and teenage pregnancies,” Kaputa said.
Police are looking for the father of the girl and the two men who married her as they have all gone into hiding.
Each year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18 and if the current trends continue, the number of girls who marry as children will reach 1.2 billion by 2050, Girls Not Brides, a global organization committed to ending child marriage, has warned.
Girls who marry as children are often not able to achieve their full potential, as they leave school early, suffer domestic violence and do not get access to proper healthcare. Some even die during pregnancy and childbirth as a result of complications because their bodies are not ready.
Child marriages affect the economies of several countries and it is worrying that some countries still allow the practice to continue.