Pregnancy: Rape in Kenya
The Kenya National Guidelines on the management of sexual violence clearly indicate that any female survivor of rape who meets the eligibility criteria ought to be given EC.
EC is the emergency contraceptive given to survivors of rape in Kenya to protect them from conceiving.
This drug is to be given within 72 hours after one has been violated.
Fear of survivors of rape in Kenya
Every woman or parent of a female child who is raped fears only one thing, conceiving a child out of rape.
Despite the availability of prophylactic treatment, many people who are raped in Kenya do not to report to the health facility on time.
There are various contributing factors, including the stigma that surrounds survivors of rape in Kenya, in addition to some of the cultural practices that prevent survivors from reporting to health facilities, leave alone to the police station.
Rape: cultural practices in case of a pregnancy
I recently discovered that in certain communities, when one is sexually assaulted, she is subjected to various cleansing ceremonies conducted by village and clan elders.
These customs are undertaken to wade off evil spirits from a particular homestead.
The perpetrator of the sexual offence is then required by the clan elders to pay some form of fine in cash or kind to the survivor’s family. The amount of fine paid is dependent on the magnitude of the offence
An offence in certain communities is only considered seriously if there is a pregnancy involved. Such women are not given the option of aborting the child contrary to the stipulations within the Kenyan legislative framework.
The Kenyan constitution: Rape and abortion
The constitution provides for abortion in case the life of a mother or her unborn child is at risk.
Women who have been raped in Kenya and happen to get pregnant are entitled to abortion and post abortal care, as they fall under the category of women whose lives are at risk as a result of a pregnancy.
However, these women do not get to enjoy this constitutional right due to the prevailing cultural norms and practices.
Pregnancy and rape in Kenya: culture
In one of the Kenyan communities where incest of rampant, in case a survivor of rape conceives, she is considered to have breached the stipulated norms.
This in turn means that her continued stay within the community is considered to be a taboo. This is so because the survivor is perceived to have annoyed the traditional gods who might pour their wrath on the entire clan.
The situation becomes even more complex when there is a pregnancy involved such that, a child who is born out of an incestuous relationship is deemed to be an omen.
Pregnancy and rape: what next in terms of justice?
In the event of a pregnancy as a result of an incestuous relationship, it is not just the perpetrator of the rape who is punished but the survivor too.
In one of the Kenyan communities, this is what happens:
- The survivor is not allowed to abort the child whilst still in the village as it is wrong for her to spill blood from her pregnancy within the compound
- In case the survivor agrees to carry the baby to term; she is required to abandon the baby at the hospital without breastfeeding it, or allow some older women to dump the baby in a bush; or in some worse scenarios ,she is required to starve the baby to death
- Both the survivor and the perpetrator are excommunicated from the community, if they choose not to separate from each other.
Role of administrative structure in handling rape and pregnancy
It is sad to note that even the local administration that is required to uphold the rule of law at the village level, has failed it discharging this mandate
Chiefs have been found to encourage families to settle cases of pregnancy as a result of rape using local norms and not the constitutional provisions.
There are some chiefs who even call upon families concerned to settle such cases of rape out of court by paying fines. The fine is usually higher in case of a pregnancy.
According to the prevailing cultural practices in the event of a pregnancy arising from rape, the survivor is punished in the same measure as the perpetrator.
However, the survivor of sexual violence, who in most cases is a woman is affected most as she has to bear of the stigma of having experienced a rape ,and more so conceiving as a result.
What next: Rape and pregnancy
There is however hope for women or girls out there who have been raped. Most public health facilities are adequately stocked with family planning pills that can be used as prophylaxis against pregnancy.
For those who are already pregnant as a result of the rape, there are several children’s homes or offices of the children department that are willing to adopt the child.
So do not despair as there is life after a rape incident.