MOST children have fond childhood memories about their grandfathers but for 15-year-old Nchimunya (not real name) she has a terrible recollection.
Nchimunya only recalls horrific nightmares of frequent sexual abuses by the person who should have been her protector.
It has not been easy for her to come to terms with the fact that she was defiled and impregnated by her own grandfather, who was 78 years old at the time.
Carrying her baby, Nchimunya sorrowfully narrates her journey through the valley of depression.
“My life will never be the same again; every day of my life is like a nightmare, I still can’t believe that the person I looked up to for protection could do this to me. I wish to have a normal life like other children, but I don’t think I will ever get it because the images of my grandfather sleeping with me keep flashing back,” says Nchimumya.
Nchimunya’s parents died while she was very young; now she has neither a brother nor sister. This is how she recounts her story:
‘‘It all began in 2014 when I was 13 years, when my mother died. I had no one else to live with, my father died when I was a baby. I went to live with my grandparents in Kafue district.
‘‘I was so excited because I thought I was in safe hands, as grandparents are known for spoiling their grandchildren with love and would do everything possible to give them a good life and future. But little did I know that the worst was yet to happen.
‘‘Apart from me, my grandparents were also looking after my two male cousins who were also orphaned and younger than I was. At first everything was perfect, we all lived happily as a family and I was doing my 6th grade at a community school then.
‘‘My nightmare started when my grandmother went to visit one of her daughters who had just given birth on the Copperbelt and left us (my cousins and I) in the care of my grandfather.
‘‘Grandmother was away for four months and I was the only girl in the house.
‘‘One fateful night, whilst my cousins were asleep in the sitting room, I was engulfed with fear and shock when I saw my grandfather who had never stepped foot into my bedroom seated next to me on the floor.
‘‘I felt as though I was dreaming, but I realised I was not when I felt his hands undressing me.
‘‘With fear I cried and tried to scream, but he held my mouth and threatened that I will die if I screamed or tell anyone about it because it was tradition that grandfathers have sexual intercourse with their granddaughters.
‘‘Like a demon-possessed beast, he pounced on me every night and when I tried to fight back by pushing him away, my weak body could not sustain the resistance. I was overpowered and he did whatever he wanted to.
‘‘This incestuous sexual abuse went on for some time, it became a routine and we lived like wife and husband during grandmother’s absence.
‘‘I was in pain and deep down my heart I cursed him. Each time he did it I felt more depressed and worthless; I could not believe that my own grandfather could to have sex with me. However, when night fell, I was confronted by the hard reality and I could not do anything but to endure it.
‘‘Two months later, I started noticing some changes in my body. I usually had severe fatigue, fever and sometimes I would even vomit, but I never had an idea of what was happening to me because the whole experience was new to me.
‘‘When grandmother returned, she noticed the changes on my body, too, but it never clicked in her mind that I was pregnant. As days went by, pregnancy symptoms became more visible and being an elderly woman, grandmother realised I was pregnant.
‘‘She was very angry; she beat me up and accused me of sleeping with boys in the village. I tried to open up to her and convince her that grandfather was sleeping with me when she was away, but she could not believe me.
‘‘She called me a witch and warned me not to tell anyone; sometimes she would starve me for some days. I thought she would calm down and help me get justice, but instead she worsened the situation by suggesting I abort the pregnancy.
‘‘According to her, I was too young to conceive and that if I did it would bring disgrace to the family.
She only cared about saving herself and the family from shame; she never cared if I died in the process. She forced me to apply and drink some herbs for days, but they failed to induce the abortion.
‘‘It was at this moment that my grandparents started having fights over my pregnancy and my grandfather could shamelessly admit to my grandmother of having slept with me.
‘‘The pregnancy was kept a secret and I was told I would die if I told anyone about it because it was taboo. I stopped going to school and I was banned from interacting with other children or neighbours in the village.
‘‘Weeks turned into months and I gave birth to a baby boy.
‘‘Upon giving birth, his evil deeds started catching up with him, he started acting weird and a few days later he was found dead in the backyard. He committed suicide after taking some poisonous concoction.
‘‘At this juncture, the beans were spilled; people came to know that my grandfather was the father of my baby. Grandmother blamed me for everything that had happened and accused me of killing grandfather.
‘‘She chased me out of her house; I had nowhere else to go, I slept in the bush for some days and was scared that my baby would die of starvation, because breast milk stopped coming out.
‘‘One of our neighbours in the village noticed that I was sleeping in the bush and secretly took me in. She suggested that I needed counselling and spiritual deliverance, so she took me to a church organisation in Lusaka where I was prayed for.
‘‘Since then, I have been living at the church; my child is now six months old. I wish to resume school soon, my
dream is to finish school and become a police officer so that I can protect children from all forms of abuse.
‘‘I always ask God to help me forget about everything that has happened to me, but it’s not easy. I only hope and pray that one day all the bad memories of my grandfather will be wiped off my mind and I will live a normal life like everyone else.
‘‘My advice to young girls out there is that they should not be scared to report cases of sexual abuse, regardless of who is involved, because it is evil.
The Penal Code (Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia) defines defilement as unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl-child below the age of 16 years. Sadly, defilement is rampant in Zambia.
Recent statistics indicate that 6, 277 girls were defiled between 2010 and 2013. Last year the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) recorded over 1,450 defilement cases.
However, like Nchimunya’s, most cases go unreported as many victims and family members prefer to keep the issue under wraps because of the stigma accompanying it.
The Zambian law clearly states that it is a criminal offence for a man to have carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 16. According to the Penal Code, Chapter 87, and Section 138(1), such a person is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for life. Section 138 (2) further states that any person who attempts to have carnal knowledge of any girl under the age of 16 years is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for life.
Defilement has both physiological and psychological effects on children which include distress, fear, shame, stigmatisation and discrimination, among others.
Media Network on Childs Rights executive director Henry Kabwe says cultural beliefs had led to the escalating number of children being sexually abused.
Mr. Kabwe observed that despite the stiffer punishment imposed on would-be offenders, cases of defilement had remained alarmingly high.
He called for more sensitisation in communities if the scourge was to be curbed.
“Children deserve their rights and sensitization is the only way. It is beyond human understanding to hear that a mature man defiled a child,” Mr. Kabwe said.
And Child labour ambassador Samson Mutambo concurred with Mr. Kabwe that if communities fully understood the dangers of defilement, they would always report them.
“It is shocking and there is no point of hiding such serious cases. The culprits should be punished; it’s high time we speak against such evil acts and people must report such cases to relevant authorities, and this can be done when people are more sensitized,” Mr. Mutambo said.
An index developed by the African Child Policy Forum on child protection in the African Report on Child Well-being, rates Zambia at 22 out of 52 countries.