At least eight in every 10 children locked up in juvenile institutions have never committed an offence.
A new report by the Judiciary released yesterday also claims 60 per cent of the minors in juvenile institutions have been accused of sexual crimes.
Apart from sexual offences, theft, assault and drug-related offences take up just 13 per cent of the numbers in juvenile institutions. Other offences like cruelty, arson, murder, abductions, suicide, truancy and fraud account for less than seven per cent.
“The report shows violence against children is endemic. It is a big problem that 60 per cent of cases filed by the police involving children involve defilement,” said Martha Koome, chairperson of the Special Task Force on Children Matters.
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Other than defilement, crimes of a sexual nature that the children are accused of include incest, sexual assault, rape, indecent and unnatural acts.
According to the report, released to commemorate World Children’s Day, police handled 2,757 criminal cases involving children between 2016 and 2018 in eight counties that were sampled. Nairobi had the highest number of cases at 691, followed by Bungoma (549), Kisumu (484) and Kilifi (427).
Fewer cases were recorded in Nyandarua, which had 279 and Makueni (195). Narok and Garissa had the least cases at 176 and 61 respectively.
Those accused of sexual offences across the eight counties are overwhelmingly male.
The report says coordination between the different agencies that should ensure child justice is weak. This situation is aggravated by a critical knowledge and capacity gap, and sometimes apathy of judicial officers and other officials entrusted with the care of children.
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“Many of the children languish in these institutions, sometimes becoming adults as they await the resolution of their cases,” the report reads.
Justice Koome said all the players in the administration of justice need to pull together. “We came across children who have been in these institutions for as long as five years waiting for their cases to be heard,” she said.
Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani said in order to enhance children’s rights, the government intends to strengthen child protection systems and structures.
This will be done by spearheading a review of the Children’s Act. A draft Bill of the same is with the Attorney General. Mr Yatani, who also doubles up as acting Treasury CS, said the review will align the Children Act with the Constitution.