On November 2, 2021, one of the longest-fought court battles that IJM Kenya has handled came to a close. Nearly eight years after little Jalia* was assaulted, the court found her perpetrator guilty and sentenced him to life in prison.
On March 14, 2013, 5-year-old Jalia* was alone in her classroom waiting for her older brother to pick her up after school when a man she knew came into the room.
She wasn't afraid because she knew him well - he was the school owner’s eldest son who sometimes acted as a substitute teacher - but when he grabbed her and pushed her onto the cold floor, little Jalia was terrified. She tried to free herself from his grip, but she was no competition for his strength.
Afraid for her life, Jalia cried out, but the man held her mouth and proceeded to sexually assault her.
Jalia's brother arrived to the sound of her cries and saw what was happening. He immediately called for help. He and several others captured and brought the attacker into police custody and Jalia was taken to the hospital and treated after medical evaluation confirmed the abuse.
Jalia's mother reported the crime, but the trial faced repeated delays and multiple adjournments. Jalia’s chances of receiving justice felt incredibly remote. In late 2013, Jalia's mother was introduced to IJM Kenya by a friend and the team picked up the case.
From 2013 to 2021, the long road to justice
All through the past eight years, IJM Kenya staff remained dedicated to providing critical support for Jalia and her family. The IJM legal staff worked relentlessly to support the state prosecutors to ensure that the case proceeded, while the IJM aftercare staff helped Jalia heal from the trauma and prepare to testify in court.
In August 2018, 10-year-old Jalia stood on the wooden witness stand to testify against her attacker, but when she saw him she was overwhelmed and wept. Seeing how much she was affected, the magistrate allowed her to testify through an intermediary and – despite her fear of the perpetrator – eventually, she courageously identified the man who attacked her.
The court ultimately found her perpetrator guilty.
When it came to sentencing, Kenya's Sexual Offences Act holds acts of sexual violence against children at the same severity as murder and robbery with violence - the younger the child, the stronger the sentence. Because Jalia was 5 at the time of the crime, her perpetrator is now facing life imprisonment.
IJM aftercare staff Esther Njuguna said, “This is a huge milestone. It has been so many years of waiting and praying for justice.”
Today, 13-year-old Jalia, who has spent most of her young life waiting for this trial to conclude, can finally begin to put it behind her. As one of IJM Kenya's longest cases, our teams rejoice with her and her family that her attacker is behind bars and that she is starting her teenage years full of hope for her life ahead.
*a pseudonym and stock image used.