Giving birth while still very young has been mentioned as one of the reasons behind cases of women going berserk on their children. According to a psychiatrist Josphine Omondi, the more mature and educated a woman is, the higher her chances to manage motherhood.
“Once a girl starts her menses, she is capable of getting pregnant, but physically and psychologically she is not prepared for motherhood,” said Omondi.
But teenage pregnancy is not new in Kenya, and even the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has documented that at least 378,000 girls aged between 10 and 19 became pregnant in the least one year ending July 2016.
The bigger chunk of the teenage pregnancy is among the girls aged 15 years and 19 years, with 349,465 cases under the same period. Dr Omondi said motherhood comes with tough responsibilities that require both parents to be present. This is considering that during pregnancy, the woman usually anticipates assistance from her partner, hence when the help does not come forth, she becomes devastated.
“The care of a little child is very demanding, and the mother needs support, not just of her partner but the whole family,” she said.
In some notable cases, however, Omondi said mothers are driven to extreme acts of hurting their children due to mental instability brought about by postpartum depression.
This is a type of stress or depression that comes before or immediately after childbirth. It is associated with hormonal imbalance and according Omondi, it is supposed to last for about six weeks after childbirth. But for some, it may go for even a year, which, she said, require special care due to major depressive disorder.
“These mothers will only realise what they have done after the child is dead… these acts are usually performed when they are not in their rights state of mind,” said Omondi.
According to the Economic Survey report 2018 by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), there were 60 recorded cases of infanticide (killing of infants) in 2013, 31 in 2014, 30 in 2015, 35 in 2016 and 26 documented in 2017.
There were also 34, 45, 33, 32 and 35 reported cases of abortion under the same period.
The Penal Code 210 of the Constitution states that a woman will be sentenced of infanticide only if the child is less than 12 months, and it is proven that she was mentally disturbed at the time of incident due to the effects of not having fully recovered from giving birth.
However, judges have been forced to apply own assessment in sentencing individuals convicted of infanticide, in some cases, getting rid of earlier harsher sentences placed by their colleagues.
“The trend in other jurisdictions (like in the UK) is that offences of infanticide are met, invariably, with non-custodial penalty on the rationale that such offenders generally require treatment and probation, but with the usual caveat that each case must be considered on its own special circumstances,” said Justice F Tuiyott in his May 19, 2016 judgement, where a mother who had been charged with infanticide and sentenced to seven years was set free.
The woman had thrown her one-month-old infant to a pit latrine minutes after her partner called to accuse her of getting the child out of wedlock.
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