Sexual violations still unreported in Kenya

March 4, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 3 – Countless, heart-wrenching stories of women and young girls who were raped in the post 2007 election crisis have been told.

Young boys were not spared this life-shattering ordeal either with cases of sodomy being reported.

But even as some of the survivors talk about it, the bad memories are still like a very fresh wound and probably one that will forever be etched in their minds.

Many like Agnes who have lived to tell their tales are still very scared.

“I don’t want the 2012 elections to find me here in Nairobi. I want to move to my rural home because when I remember what happened to me, I think of it like Malaria which can attack me again,” states Agnes who says she was gang raped in the presence of her 14 year old daughter.

Agnes who lives in the infamous Kibera slum remembers that she was raped by two security officers on the same day the election results were announced and hell broke loose.

“The General Service Unit (GSU) officers had come to restore peace and order. They were coming door to door to look for the young men who were causing mayhem. Three of them came into my house but I told them it was just my daughter and I in the house,” narrates the 46 year old mother of five.

“One of them told his colleagues that they should give us discipline; another said he would take my daughter and the rest would have me but I told them to leave my daughter and take me instead,” she says.

However she says the third officer refused to participate in the act, he just drank water then left.

Agnes is among the few courageous women who testified before the Justice Phillip Waki Commission on the injustices that took place at that time.

The Commission which was mandated to investigate the facts and circumstances related to acts of violence that followed the elections and the actions or omissions of State security agencies during the course of the violence recognised that sexual violence indeed took place.

It also established that the perpetrators of sexual violence were not just ordinary citizens, neighbours and gang members but also significant numbers of security forces who included members of GSU, regular and administration police officers.

“Many victims let members of the security forces into their houses assuming they would help them. Instead, they found themselves being attacked by those they thought would help them. This entailed a gross betrayal of trust,” the Waki Report states in part.

Unfortunately, many of the survivors like Agnes did not immediately report their cases to the police despite the presence of gender desks in police stations.

The Waki Report attributes this to security concerns with a majority fearing to leave home, lack of transport, ignorance and others feared the stigma associated with reporting such acts.

This meant that the survivors were also not able to access timely medical attention.

The Waki Report also noted that authorities were totally unprepared to respond to sexual violence cases.

Most gender desks in police stations within Nairobi seem not to be operating any more.

The gender desks were created more than five years ago to handle cases of sexual violence nature while assisting the survivors to get the necessary medical attention.

“I was not aware of the gender desks and even if they are there how can I go to report to the same people who violated me?” Agnes poses.

Kilimani police station is one of the few whose gender desks are still operational.

Deputy Officer Commanding Police Division (OCPD) Fredrick Ochieng’ however says they have no data on the cases of sexual violence that were reported during the post 2007 election violence.

“We don’t have because during that post election violence most cases were not reported. But this data was able to be collected by a special squad formed from the police headquarters to investigate and record the data,” Mr Ochieng’ says referring to a 50-member police taskforce formed to investigate and prosecute cases of sexual violence during the post election crisis.

Mr Ochieng’ says the Kilimani police station gender desk which operates round the clock receives about 10 cases of Gender Based Violence in a month. He says more than half of the cases which are of sexual violence nature usually involve children.

“The major challenge is that when a case involves a child, sometimes getting adequate information is a challenge depending on the age of the child,” he said.

He says the gender desk is headed by a Chief Inspector assisted by three police officers who have received some basic training on care and handling of Gender Based Violence cases.

“Transfers also affect the gender desk department. When an officer has been trained and then is transferred to another station or division where they will not be deployed to the same duties they have been trained on and then you receive another who is not trained on those duties, this creates a problem,” he says.

Mr Ochieng’ believes that this could be the reason why most gender desks no longer work.

At the Kibera DO’s office where there was also an established gender desk, it is no longer in place instead one is directed to the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) which recently opened a centre there.

CREAW Programme Officer Caroline Nyambura says the programme started in March 2009.

“We felt there was a need here and especially after the violence that was experienced in 2008 there were many cases of rape here that were not reported,” she says.

She says the centre receives an average of 50 Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases in a month and by the close of 2009, they had received 386 such cases.

“You find that rape cases are still not being reported. In all these GBV cases, rape takes only about three percent. Victims are still ashamed to report and afraid of publicity,” she says.

“But it doesn’t mean that it (rape) does not happen.”

She however says the centre cannot handle the reported cases without the assistance of the police gender desks.

“We need to pick p3 forms which we cannot issue here, have it filled and also record a statement with the police. If the gender desk at the DO office was working, this could have been easy,” she says.

Ms Nyambura says there seems to be very low level of awareness on the police gender desks among the population and the need to report when such incidences occur.

A research done by the Institute of Economic Affairs last year on the status of gender desks at police stations in Kenya, a case study of Nairobi shows that the police have inadequate information on gender violence and the Ministry of State for Provincial Administration and Internal Security does not have a budget line for gender violence desks.

It also indicated that there was shortage of trained police officers on GBV with the study showing that 76.4 percent of gender violence survivors had their complaints improperly recorded.

It says most cases of rape, wife battering and defilement were recorded as general assault cases.

The research was done in Kilimani, Langata, Embakasi, Kayole and Buruburu Police Divisions which according to the study, the gender desks were manned by one police officer trained on gender issues and who can be assigned other duties.

In the absence of the officer the study stated, survivors are attended to by other police officers on duty. On the other hand Huruma, Kasarani, Makongeni, Muthangari, Soweto and Ruaraka police stations did not have trained gender police officers

A number of countries across the world such as India, Liberia, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and the United Kingdom have established gender based police stations or women police stations.


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