Monday, January 16, 2023

Girls' Suffering is Everywhere

Annamaria is pulling no punches

"Sexual violence persists because it's hard to talk about. It thrives in silence, leaving children nowhere to turn."  Nicolas Kristof wrote these words in an opinion piece in The New York Times this past week.

Nevertheless, I am talking about it.  If what I have to say here makes your skin crawl, good!  It should!

The MIE blog is ordinarily about crime fiction.  Today it is about crime FACT.  

Here is how Kristof's column begins:

NAIROBI, Kenya — She is impossibly young to have endured what she did, and what still haunts her is the job of the man responsible: a police officer.

“He said that if I tell, he will kill me,” whispered the 11-year-old girl, whom I’ll call Nancy (the names of the girls in this column have been changed). “I have dreams that he is coming to kill me.”

Nancy was walking home last year when the policeman chased her. She might have been able to outrun him on her own, but her mom had entrusted her to walk her 5-year-old brother home. They ran together but the boy was slow and she was too responsible to let go of his hand — so the officer caught her and then, she said, raped her.

Afterward, she delivered her brother home but was bleeding so badly she soon lost consciousness. Her family rushed her to the hospital.

The authorities are still searching for the police officer, but because she is a prospective witness, the family fears for her safety. So now she is rebuilding her life in a safe house on the edge of Nairobi run by a nonprofit..."

That is the story of one girl.  But just one day before,
I had learned about another girl
.  This story came from my friend and sister warrior for the rights of girls, Sarah Lesiamito, founder of the Sidai 
Resource Centre in Samburu, northern Kenya.

Sarah had gotten a call from a friend, another pastoralist woman asking her to attend a very rare event - the trial of a Maasai man on charges of defiling and marrying an underage girl.

Sarah's friend had known of the girl's plight for three years - that a man had taken as a wife a nine-year-old girl.  When her friend tried to rescue the girl the man disappeared into the bush with her.  Being a pastoralist, he could easily get lost in the wilderness.  But now he was found.

 The trial was to take place in Narok, more than 400 kilometers away, much of it over unpaved roads.  It took Sarah a day and half, but she was determined to go because of the potentially historic nature of the trial and the need for women to be there in court to stand with the girl.

In the dock, was the fifty year old man above: Saigulu Ololosereka charged with violating a 2019 law by marrying a nine-year-old girl.  The judge in the case was Narok Senior Resident Magistrate Phyllis Shinyanda, before whom Ololosereka pleaded guilty, but he showed no remorse.  He contends that the girl is his lawful fourth wife.  That her father gave her to him.  That they were married and have lived together as husband and wife for three years.

The judge sentenced him to life in prison.  Defenders of the rights of girls see this unpresidented verdict as a step in the right direction.  That is good.   But here's the thing.  The only reason his behavior was found out was that the girl had gone into labor and began to bleed uncontrollably.  Ololosereka took her to the hospital where she suffered a caesarean stillbirth.  It was the hospital staff that called the police and reported the rape.

News of the trial has been published in Uganda and in Ghana, in addition to Kenya.  But suppose the girl's condition had not gotten so drastic, or suppose Ololosereka had let her die rather than expose his crime.  Then there is the fact that he doesn't see anything criminal in his behavior. What he did is done all the time in the culture in which he lives, and so it has since before recorded history. 

 Sarah, in telling her part of the story, emphasized the fact that in that culture (as in many) girls have no voice. They don't find it hard to talk about being raped.  For them, it is impossible.  Their pastoralist culture silences all females.  All they can do is bear the physical and psychological torture that men dole out to them.

And, but the way, Ololosereka has the right to appeal his conviction.

And the judge has put out a warrant for the parents of the girl, who allowed this to happen to their daughter.  But this sort of transaction has been an integral part of these cultural practices. The mothers have no power in the decision.  For instance, years ago I heard the story of a twelve-year-old girl whose father wanted to sell her in marriage to a fifty-seven-year-old man for a truckload of beer.  The girl's mother spirited her away to a hostel where she could be safe from such a fate.  When the mother went back home, her husband beat her so badly that he broke her bones.

Sarah, who lives on a daily basis with the possibility of violence against women who fight against these practices is now afraid for the mother of Ololosereka’s victim and is prepared to help keep the mother safe.  Sarah asked me to keep her friend's name secret because she too can become a target of violence for taking the part of the girl.  

Ololoseka's victim is still in the hospital recuperating from her caesarian.  "Nancy", the policeman's victim is now living in a safe house.  What will the future hold for these damaged children?

And what about the millions of others, the invisible girls suffering in silence from cultural practices that rate them, not as people, but as chattle?

In 2014, when the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 female students from their school, the crime was reported everywhere on the news. There was an attempt to try to find those girls, but the response never reached the level of outrage that such a brutal act deserved. I thought then that, if those girls had been blonde, say for instance Swedish, there would have been a much greater attempt to rescue them. As of now, 98 of them are still in captivity.  If indeed they are even still alive.

In 2013, United Nations research revealed that one fourth of the men in six Asian countries responded that they had raped someone. I am assuming that the study did not include inmates in prison. These monsters had the audacity to tell the truth, knowing that they would continue freely walking about, free to do whatever damage to girls and women that they felt like. Because in far too much of this world, the males of the species just assume that women are fair game, even if they are not old enough yet to be referred to as women.

And who is there to stop them?

There are efforts underway.  But much MUCH more is needed to improve the lives of women and girls worldwide.  Please join in.  Find an effort whose goals you can support by volunteering, by donating, by spreading the word.

Yes!  It's hard to talk about it.  But the more people willing to speak up for those suffering in silence, the sooner their pain will stop.  Give the voiceless your voice.  And find a way to give them a hand.

I can tell you from personal experience, your rewards will be great joy in every worthwhile step you take.   


  1. Alas, it will undoubtedly take decades of hard work to come close to a cure for this. Perhaps it could be accelerated by passing a law requiring public castration of any man convicted of having sex with an underage person, and a law requiring that EVERY male must attend some reasonable number of such public castrations each year.

  2. You sound like my grandmother, who was otherwise unlikely to use such language. But if she heard of a man molesting a minor, she would grumble through clenched teeth, “Where’s the bread knife?” She raised six sons. I am sure they got the message. AA

  3. Worldwide toxic masculinity and abuse and assaults on women continues. Take Afghanistan, Iran. I can never understand what it is EXACTLY that makes men want to subjugate women. Some might claim religion, but seriously, you know that’s just an excuse. Actually, Annamaria's post has just given me an idea. Let me research it and with any luck I can write something for Wednesday.

  4. I can’t wait to read about it, Kwei!

    For me, it’s the opposte when it comes to religion. It is more likely a source, not an excuse. All three of the major religions are based on the assumption of the superiority of men. The God they worship is masculine. Their clergy was all masculine until very recently. They all begin their mythology with Genesis and that vixen Eve who fell into the snake’s temptation and plunged MANKind from bliss into misery.

  5. Thank you, Annamaria for your advocacy here... I hope that perhaps your fellow bloggers will use their writing and reading circles, too, to raise awareness of controlling gender beliefs and behaviours, and push for organisational action at all levels. We have to keep pointing to systemic abuse of strength and power, no matter how uncomfortable, for only by exposing societal cruelties and abuses, and keeping them under the spotlight, locally and internationally, can we raise the priority they receive from leaders in government and religion. Thank you. Pat C.

    1. From AA: Thank you so much for weighing in with me, Pat. I think the 21st Century must, and will become The Century of the Woman and the Girl. There are many signs that the turning away from male dominance has begun on parts of the globe. Put it won't happen unless we put our energy into it. The future comfort and joy of humans on this sacred planet is one of the key issues at stake. We need more than freedom from abuse. We need half the seats at the table. But, for me, stopping abuse gets the highest priority,

  6. At one stage in southern Africa there was a belief that sex with a virgin cured HIV. Of course, to establish that the girl was a virgin, the easiest was to choose a young girl. Or a very young girl. Or even a baby.
    Probably these men wouldn't have a vaccination if there was one.

    1. Thank you Michael, for showing us how truly widespread this brutality is. I heard about the situation you described here during the AIDS plague in New York City. These behaviors made our news casts. It was not until I was researching The Blasphemers that I learned that taking very young girls at sex toys was an impeded part of some cultures. Nothing I can think of disgusts me more. Fortunately, the ranks of those of us acting against these rapes of young children. What does fighting on the right side are growing. They need to be legion, and as quickly as possible. In the work my friend Sarah does, one by one, she protects girls. And little by little, the people nearby are beginning to see wouldn't educated girl free to choose her own future can become. And my friends and I are doing everything we can to make sure Sarah has the wherewithal to expand her efforts.

    2. I typed "imbedded" not impeded. Let's see if Blogger lets me get away with it. "Impeded" is what the practice should be. Wiped off the face of the earth!! Let's see if blogger lets me get away with a word it evidently doesn't know.

  7. Your blog is absolutely correct Patricia. This retrogressive cultural practices must come to an end.. Men who marry minors and subject them to torture and suffering should be given life lmprisonmen. Brutal abuse and violation of girls and women right to stop.

    1. From AA: I learned that the comment above is from the woman I call my sister warrior, Sarah Lesiamito. Like the most of us who post anonymously, she is not trying to hide her identity, just trying to find a way to say something despite blogger's clunky software.

      She was wrote to me more of what she had to say on this subject, and I have her permission to re-print it here:

      "Early marriages happens all the time. The above man is all over in the media. We in the previous years led demonstrations against rape violence. FGM. And early marriages.. The case of a policeman raping a young is also a true story. This is why I thought of working hard in order to give girls confidence and be useful to girls and women whose cultural backgrounds has made them voiceless. I'm pretty sure that law will take its course in the case of the young girl. Thank you for passing this information in your own way. SL