Video:‘Dead beat Kenya’ rattles uncaring spouses
A Facebook page which claims to name and shame irresponsible fathers and mothers who do not take care of their children has sparked a storm on and off the social media.
With over 155,000 online followers, the page known as “Dead beat Kenya” allows users to post photographs, phone numbers and other personal information about the men and women they accuse of neglecting their children.
Started on September 6 by businessman Jackson Njeru, the page has gone viral after naming politicians, musicians and businessmen who allegedly do not take care of their children.
They have allegedly failed to pay for their off-springs’ upkeep even after being ordered to do so by the courts.
Mr Njeru said he started the page after he encountered many women who had been left with children but had no means of fending for them.
“I helped two or three women with money and they told their friends. My inbox was soon full of messages of women asking me to intervene between them and their irresponsible partners… I knew the page would open a can of worms but I did not expect it to go viral,” he told the Nation.
Those who have been abandoned by their partners first approach Mr Njeru who then contacts those accused to work out a plan to cater for the children.
“I call the irresponsible fathers and majority of them will deny the child and the mother. A few will communicate with the mother of the child and work out a plan to take care of the children. But those that find themselves on the page are the stubborn ones who don’t return my calls and messages,” he said.
Those mentioned in the page are exposed to hundreds of acerbic comments and criticism from group members.
One has to sign up to be a member because it is a closed user-group and the information is not available to those who have not registered.
RIDICULING OF THE CHILD
Family lawyer Judy Thongori said it was unfortunate that there were so many irresponsible parents.
“I appreciate the level of frustration of such mothers. That said, every parent has a responsibility because having a child is a consensual agreement. However, part of that responsibility requires that you do not unduly expose the child,” Ms Thongori said.
According to her, exposing the fathers and their particulars on social media leads to identification and ridiculing of the child, and such kind of shaming has the potential of alienating the child from the parent.
Exposing the identity of the child is prohibited in Section 76 of the Children’s Act.
What is her advice to parents who want their children’s fathers or mothers to play their rightful role?
“The Constitution has made it impossible to discriminate against a child born out of wedlock,” she said. “The place to go is the Children’s Court. Seek legal help that can be sustained. I know justice is not always accessible and that is why people choose to go to Facebook, but people must know that you can go to court and represent yourself,” said Ms Thongori.
LIBEL AND DEFAMATION
Exposing dead beat parents without a clear-cut authentication process and verification of facts opens the page and the users to various legal challenges such as the risk of being sued for libel and defamation.
According to Mr Elisha Ongoya, a lawyer, if it turns out that the information published on the page is in fact incorrect, the individual mentioned adversely can sue for libel.
“This is because the mode of communication adopted (writing) is permanently sustainable and can last for a lifetime,” he said.
A person defamed on the Facebook page can sue the one who provided the misleading information as well as the host of the page for repeating the defamatory remarks.
“Every repetition of the defamatory matter gives you a fresh reason to complain. Even the company that hosts Facebook can be sued,” he said.
He was also of the view that embarrassing and shaming irresponsible fathers will not always give the desired effect.
“It causes more harm especially to children who go to school with other tech-savy children. The psychological effects are more than the benefits you get from blackmailing a man to take care of his children. It is too invasive,” he said.
HOW GROUP CAME INTO BEING
- The Facebook group was started by businessman Jackson Njeru on September 6. Njeru is also the founder and administrator of another Facebook page dubbed ‘Buyers Beware’ that exposes conmen.
- The page membership hit 155,000 in less than a week.
- It was started after Njeru encountered many single mothers left helpless by irresponsible partners. He says the term “refers to parents of either gender who have freely chosen not to be supportive.”
‘Deadbeat dad’ and ‘deadbeat mom’ are commonly used by child support agencies to refer to fathers and mothers who are unwilling to pay child support ordered by a court or statutory agency.
PAGE INCURS WRATH OF MEN’S LOBBY GROUP
The Maendeleo ya Wanaume Association has threatened to sue the administrator of the Dead Beat Facebook group.
The Association’s chairman, Mr Nderitu Njoka, on Monday said the Facebook page is operating contrary to the law.
Mr Njoka said 17 men have forwarded their complaints to the association seeking redress over alleged adverse mention on the social media platform.
The association has already filed a complaint at the Central Police Station in Nairobi where the aggrieved men also recorded their statements.
He said men accused of forsaking their children could be guilty but the channel used was wrong and in contravention of the Constitution.
Mr Njoka argues that there were many government offices dealing with the plight of children including the Children’s Court which are the right platform for aggrieved women to seek justice for their children.
He asked other men who have been named by the group to contact his association for legal assistance.