NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 31 – A group of women demanding justice for a 16-year-old girl who was gang-raped in Western Kenya have demonstrated in Nairobi, marching to Police Headquarters at Jogoo House where they hang inner-wear on the fence as a show of protest.
The placard-carrying women said they were enraged because the police had initially arrested three of the attackers – all aged between 16 and 20 – and only punished them with an order to cut grass at a police station compound.
African Women’s Development and Communication Network Head of Communication Nebila Abdulmelik who was among the demonstrators said they decided to petition police chief David Kimaiyo to act because officers on the ground do not appear committed to get the perpetrators.
“On her way home from her grandfather’s funeral, ‘Liz’ was beaten and raped by six men who dumped her in a pit latrine,” the women said, referring to the teenage victim via a pseudonym to protect her identity.
“Community members found her in the latrine and took her to the hospital and she later managed to identify three of the rapists. The police arrested the three and they recorded the case as assault and punished the perpetrators to slash grass,” Abdulmelik protested.
She said Kimaiyo needed to live through a pledge he made on social media to ensure justice for the victim.
“He had responded on Twitter that the criminals had been arrested awaiting a court ruling on their fate and action taken on the police who released the offenders.
“The tweet was later deleted and when investigations were done, it appears that the criminals were not in custody and no action has been taken on the police,” the protestors said.
“Rather than deleting tweets, Kimaiyo has to take action in what has been a shameful response by Kenya’s police. The men that raped Liz must be arrested and the police officers who let them walk free must be held to account – this case has to be the moment when the culture of violence and impunity ends,” she explained.
Police Service Chief of Staff William Thwere who addressed the protesting women invited them for a closed-door meeting with Kimaiyo after an assurance that action will be taken on the rapists.
The victim has since been confined to a wheelchair after undergoing a series of medical examinations and reconstruction as a result of injuries sustained in the brutal attack.
This attack spurred some journalists and activists to use social media to raise awareness of the case, using the hashtag #Justice4Liz and an online petition was set up by activist Abdulmelik which gained international attention.
The petition on social media has garnered over 1.2 million signatures and demands for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the alleged rapists and police officers.