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Man fights for right to raise his daughter aged three

COUNTIES
By Kamau Muthoni | April 20th 2021

While traditional society still ascribes certain roles to men and women on raising a child, societal changes mean that the macho man who cannot touch a pot, wean a baby, change a diaper or mop a house is becoming an endangered species.

In different cases, the courts have ruled that children should remain with their mothers until they get to an age when they can take care of themselves when they are with their fathers. But can a man do what a woman can do, and better?

The role of gender in raising a child is at the centre of a dispute in which one man–whose masculinity is also on trial–is fighting to perform what has traditionally been women’s roles.

Although the man, JMK, asserts that he can raise his three-year-old daughter, the minor’s mother, CWK, has voiced opposition, saying that his culture and upbringing don’t allow him to touch a diaper, leave alone cook for and wash a child.

CWK says she is relying on a report by a children’s officer that JMK had admitted he could not carry out the chores.

The man first sought temporary custody of the minor before the magistrate’s court.

According to him, he had not seen his daughter for a year. He wanted the court to allow him to take care of her, saying his house was near her school and he had the ability to hire a full-time nanny for when he was away.

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But the magistrate dismissed his application. Aggrieved, the man lodged an appeal before the High Court arguing that, among other things, the magistrate had erroneously bought into the argument that because of his gender, he could not take care of the girl until she reaches the age of 10.

According to him, the argument that a man cannot do what a woman can do is problematic and a stereotype. Justice Chacha Mwita heard that there were exceptional circumstances to not only grant him access but to deny the minor’s mother custody.

JMK argued that the report dated October 9, 2019, had no adverse information that could deny him access to the minor as he awaited a determination on who would be granted full custody.

He accused CWK of moving the minor from a Sh12,000-per-term school to one charging Sh154,000 without his knowledge. 

According to him, the minor needed a secure relationship with both parents and it was necessary for her to relate with him as the father given that she was joining the school and his presence and involvement would assist in making decisions.

On home care, the man said he gets home early, and that a nanny and not CWK is the girl’s primary caregiver. In her reply, CWK urged the court to dismiss the case.

She argued that the children’s officer’s report had revealed that JMK did not know how to take care of children.

She claimed that they had tried to negotiate the terms of access and maintenance but could not reach an agreement.

Their differences, she said, were mostly about maintenance. CWK told the court that JMK has said he would only cater for the minor’s expense on suggested one-day access.

She argued that he had never provided for his daughter since she was born.

She said that he had been allowed to visit the minor at her residence but he rejected the idea. 

Justice Mwita declined to intervene, instead sending the two parents back to the Children’s Court for a full hearing to determine who will have custody.

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