Phyllis Thiongo was seated in her office on Waiyaki Way when four women barged in. One of them of them told Thiongo, a project officer who works with Full Gospel Churches of Kenya, that she was ready to stop prostitution as she knew she had reached the end of her tether that morning.
The mother of one explained that she had, early in the morning, asked her 14-year old daughter to go and sleep with a man for money and bring the money back to her.
Those words hit the young girl so hard. She had no idea the kind of work her mother did in order to provide for them. While she was yet to pick her jaw from the ground, the mother added that they did not have any food to eat and that her brother does not have money for school fees.
Another woman also explained how she had let a man sleep with her and daughter after he offered to pay more for both of them.
Those are not isolated cases and according to Thiongo, the practice of parents using their daughters as cash cows was rampant in other parts of the country as well.
Thiongo, who is also a counselling psychologist, said that in places like Mtwapa and Malindi, the problem is quite rife as some moneyed tourists would not mind sleeping with young girls, contributing to teenage pregnancies.
Angelina Nandwa of the Single mothers Association of Kenya said that she was appalled at how mothers have forsaken their role of being parents to their children and have instead become beasts.
“I normally offer programs for young mothers but whenever I approach mothers, they will tell me to pay them for a whole year before taking their daughters to be taught different skills. This means that I have to pay them, take in their daughters and their grandchildren as well. It is all about money to them. The money that they would have collected from their daughters after prostitution has to be compensated,” she said.
Kenya’s Penal Code protects children and parents who are allowing their children to get abused risk punishment. Abuse, in this case, includes rape, defilement, indecent assault, incest (both males and females) and unnatural offences.
Physical abuse also falls into this category and includes common assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and grievous bodily harm. Children should also be protected from the concealment of birth, killing of the unborn child and procuration of an abortion.
The Children’s Act in Kenya also provides for the right to parental care, right to education, protection from child abuse and protection from sexual exploitation.
Our constitution protects our girls and boys but the implementation is often not easily done. The levels of poverty are so high that both parents and children just have to use unorthodox means for a living. Despite the levels of poverty, exposing your children to such a life should be the last thing on any woman’s mind.