About 65.6 per cent of Nairobians live in one-room houses

A Nairobi woman was hit by her 19-year-old daughter for having sex in her presence. They live in a bedsitter, The Nairobian reported.

The victim operates a shop in the estate where she met a young man who supplies bread. Her daughter, a college student in the city, was forced to spend the night on the couch or at a friend’s house whenever the bread supplier came visiting.

On the day the woman was assaulted, the bread supplier had found mother and daughter preparing supper at around 8pm, but the teenage girl became rude when she was asked to give them some privacy to discuss some ‘business.’

She made as if to leave, but instead reached for a soda bottle and struck her mother in the face, sending her sprawling to the ground and wailing for help.

Now, experts say children who watch or hear their parents making love, start experimenting earlier.

They also say that Nairobi has the highest incidents of sex among teenagers, a problem they say emanates from children sharing single-roomed houses with parents who engage in sex within earshot.

 “Of course, you wait until the children are asleep to have sex, but these gets difficult as they grow old and ‘open’ their eyes. Some parents practically have sex a few steps away from their children behind sheets or in the upper-deck bed,” said a parent in Pipeline estate.

A barmaid also explained how her mother, who also worked in a pub, would bring different men into the single room they shared, only for her, then a high school student, to help her fight them when they refused to pay for services rendered.

“Now I’m am living my mother’s life all over again,” laments Janet Wambui, adding that her mother succumbed to HIV/Aids before she cleared Form Four.

A single room

Janet says witnessing what men did to her mother perhaps explains her innate hatred for them.

James Mbugua, a counselling psychologist, terms the problem ‘disturbing’ and says it is pushing urban couples and their children into depression through psychological anguish.

“Parents are at times unable to control their sexual urges and when that happens, it becomes traumatising to children who witness the act. Yes, we know our parents have sex, but we don’t even want to imagine it, let alone witness it. You can imagine what trauma children who see their parents having sex go through,” says Mbugua.

 According to the psychologist,  adults who are unconcerned about their children’s feelings and engage in irresponsible sexual conduct, often end with offspring living in the streets  as ‘urchins’ because the children find it hard to bear the indignity of watching or listening to their parents in the throes of intimacy.

He says a study carried in Korogocho slums a few years ago revealed that some teenagers ran away from home and resorted to begging because of being exposed to the sexual encounters of their parents.

Others took to prostitution when they could no longer endure their parents’ lovemaking and snide stories about those sexual escapades in the neighbourhood.

“This is serious and calls for policy makers to focus more on provision of decent housing for all,” says Mbugua.

Dad and mum were doing tabia mbaya

The problem of children knowing, if not witnessing their parents going through the laps of sexual athleticism, is particularly acute in urban centres.

Nairobi, for instance, has over half of its five million residents living in one-room houses that double as kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms.

Single rooms are popular with young couples because they are affordable.

According to the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census, about 65.6 per cent of Nairobians (then about 1.8 million people) live in one-room houses.

Nairobi City County’s Chief Housing Planning Officer, Thomas Ogutu, notes that in Kenya, the average household size in urban areas is about four persons and that about 59 per cent of households in urban areas are accommodated in single rooms. Ogutu says that only about 40.3 per cent of households met the internationally accepted standard of at most two persons per single-room dwelling.

Sheila Wachira, a marriage counsellor, laments that there is nothing secret about some parents’ sex lives to their children, some barely 10 years old.

 “Many children know about sex. You’ll hear a four-year-old kid telling others that they saw their dad on top of their mum doing ‘tabia mbaya.’ That is disturbing and worrying,” says Wachira.

Waiting for the children to sleep rarely works, especially when one or both parents are intoxicated.

Other parents tell their children to go and play when they get the urge. Some may decide to go at during the day, and order the kids to leave the house and go outside to play.

But things sometimes go terribly wrong when the kids dash back into the house and happen on the groans and moans of their parents. 

This sort of exposure can lead children to become sexually active at early age or even make them vulnerable to incestuous relationships.