Sexual Violence in Kenya

Sexual violence is a reality and it’s happening in all corners of the world.

Sexual violence indeed still exists

We recently have a case of the former IMF boss who was accused of having violated a certain lady.

I do hope that you remember of the case where the current president of South Africa was accused of raping an HIV positive woman. Guess what the president said, that it was consensual and he used a condom. Duh!!!.

In Kenya we recently heard of this politician who went with a lady to Zanzibar with the intention of getting some fun, but after his sexual advances were turned down, the guy left the lady stranded in Zanzibar. Poor girl!

Sexual violence in Kenya

In Kenya, cases of sexual violence happen in many ways and places. Be it in the home, at school, workplace, streets, etc. There was however an increase in the incidences of sexual assault following the post election violence.

The Kenya experience clearly demonstrates a close intersection between sexual violence and poverty. Many cases of sexual violence in Kenya during the post election period of 2008 were witnessed among the poor women. It has been established that these women were violated:

  • While running away from the violence prone zones
  • While out looking for food for their children
  • While out looking for displaced members of the families

It is even sad to note that the home which is considered to be a safety zone  was turned into conflict and violence zones during the post election violence.

In 2008/9 we had IDP camps set up in many areas. Reports from the field show that some women in these camps traded in their bodies in exchange for food. Who can blame these women, given the fact that society neglected these individuals.4 years later, the scenario is still the same.

Effects of sexual violence in Kenya:

Many countries round the world  including Kenya,are grappling from the effects of sexual violence. These can be felt from the number of cases of sexual violence reported in the media on a daily basis.

While sexual violence in most cases may be a one-off incident, the effects are far reaching .Sexual violence in Kenya and beyond has life changing effects on the survivors. Some of these effects include:

  • Unwanted pregnancies
  • Incestuous relationships that at times results in incestuous pregnancies
  • Stigmatization
  • STI/HIV infection
  • Mental trauma

Responses to sexual violence in Kenya

  • health sector

Despite these, the existing public health infrastructure does not adequately respond to the health needs presented by survivors, more so the psychological effects. Most of these health facilities besides not being in close proximity to the majority, are not adequately stocked with the required staff and medication/consumables

  • legal sector

Within the legal sector, the Kenyan government did enact the sexual offenses Act in 2006.This Act came into being due to the flaws in the penal code. These included:

  • Certain types of sexual violence being  described as acts against morality, which implied less punishment  meted out to the perpetrators
  • There was no provision for certain types of sexual  offenses, mainly domestic violence and FGM
  • In case of a rape incidence it was difficult to prosecute such cases due t lack of corroborative evidence.

It’s quite sad to note that there were some court officials who would acquit perpetrators for lack of corroborative evidence from witness despite most sexual offenses occurring in secrecy, and that there are no first hand witnesses.

However with the entry of the sexual offenses Act, we have seen provisions for:

  • Minimum sentencing for different types of sexual offenses
  • There has been a recognition of  new sexual offenses  e.g. FGM
  • The task force that is implementing this Act has been mandated with the responsibility of coming up with the minimum evidence to be obtained

Despite the existence of these legal frameworks, many victims also don’t report on time due to the stigma associated with sexual violence. Some victims have been found to report to either the police or health facility several hours after the assault with no evidence.

This week the task force on the implementation of the sexual offenses Act is meeting in Naivasha to establish  how best to strengthen the implementation of this Act. I’m therefore hoping that we will start seeing a change in the way cases of sexual violence are being reported and prosecuted.

As we move close to the 2012 elections, let us all purpose to shun all forms of  sexual violence in Kenya.We also need to remember that there are survivors of the 2008 post election sexual violence who are yet to heal.How do we help these survivors of sexual violence?

 

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