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The daddy issue: Fathers and custody

 Kenyans split following ruling men can get custody of children below nine years (Photo: Courtesy)

Early this month, a Nakuru judge made a landmark ruling, stating men can have custody of children below the age of nine years.

Justice Joel Ngugi said men can play the role of caring for the child even without a woman in the picture, performing tasks like bathing, feeding and watching over the baby.

“In his April 4, 2022 verdict, Justice Ngugi said men can be granted custody of children aged below nine years. He said parental responsibility should not automatically go to women, adding Ngugi stated a man has an equal right to parent his children irrespective of their age,” The Standard reported.

“According to the judge, the age of the child should also be weighed against his or her best interest to determine who between the mother and the father should have custody.”

The ruling captured attention of Kenyans, men celebrating a win for equal rights.

The Standard Digital had a timely discussion on the Twitter Spaces forum, where over 3,000 Kenyans listened in. The conversation dealt with the custody dilemma, trying to answer the question “Who should be the custodial parent?”

Rehema Kahuranga, a single mother and the founder of Hello Mama, a popular Facebook page with over 40,000 followers said that the subject of custody is one that pops up often.

“You may find yourself as a single parent for many reasons. For some, it is through death where someone lost their spouse. There’s also the case where two people were together in a partnership or marriage and then there was a divorce,” Kahurananga said.

She added: “I represent the group where I was neither married or planning for it, but found myself taking on the pregnancy journey. I decided that I am going ahead to keep and raise my son, and there is always the risk that the other party will not agree with the decision.”

Kahurananga said from her experience, it is better to have one good parent than two ‘funny’ ones, adding it takes self-awareness to know exactly how you will handle custody issues when you take on parenting.

One Kelvin Ayodi said: “I feel like we should have a law where both parents should have equal rights, except in the case where one refuses to co-operate.”

He added that sometimes relatives could interfere and spoil a good co-parenting relationship by denying one parent to see his/ her child.

A Twitter user going by Teddy shared his experience as a single dad of two, 10 and two, respectively. He said his rocky split from his then partner meant he had to fight for the right to raise his children.

“After being denied access from my children for eight months, I tried mediation. It didn’t work. I went to court and the judge did indeed enforce my rights. I would say that custody battles affect the children greatly psychologically.”

He added: “My 10-year-old went into some sort of depression and I had to seek therapy for him.”

Brian Odhiambo, an advocate of the High Court said the idea that courts lean on the mother’s side is a long standing misconception.

“A child is defined as someone below 18 years, and in this case we are talking between zero to 10 years. Kenya takes the approach that life begins at conception, the foetus too is a child.

The constitution outlines the rights of the child, including the right to a name and a nationality, as well as access to basic needs. The law appreciates that in all matters relating to the child, there is a paramount rule that is supposed to be considered, that is the best interest of the child.”

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