Author Archives: WKF Activist

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Building a World free from Gender Based Violence

Category : My Story

w Wangu Kanja was raped in 2002 during a carjacking incident. “I was with two male friends. It was 10pm,” she remembers. Reuter
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The Survivor Who Was Carjacked, Raped, and Now Fights for Other Victims

Category : My Story


He told me to undress, I refused—I said, 'No. What you are doing is wrong.' He asked me again. I said, 'No, I don't know you. What you're asking me is wrong.' The third time he asked, he took out a gun. Eventually he gave me a bullet and said, 'You choose whether you want to live or die.'"

This is how Wangu Kanja describes the night in 2002 when she was raped at gunpoint. She is matter of fact in her description. It's a story she has told many times before.

It has been nearly 16 years since she was carjacked and violently sexually assaulted as she travelled home with associates from a business meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. The perpetrators ransacked the group's bank cards and took Kanja hostage, the only woman in the group, in case they had given incorrect PIN numbers.

That was the night she says her world came to a standstill.

"He raped me at gunpoint. His mate was standing at the entrance so I didn't have a choice, I couldn't run away. After, I was numb, I didn't know how to react to it, the trauma," she said.

"When I came out to speak about my ordeal people judged me. The first question was always how were you dressed? Who were you with? People's reactions were either to keep silent or to blame me, instead of holding the perpetrator accountable."

Kanja reported the incident, however, despite attending hospital, police refused to acknowledge the attack as rape. They told her: "Sex is sex," and labelled it...


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This is Life

Category : My Story

Wangu Kanja begins this interview by questioning why people have stopped being human. She wonders why the society has become so cruel. “Rape is a crime that defies all logic. Years back, it was unconventional to hear stories of men raping their daughters but such stories abound today,” says the rape survivor and sexual gender-based violence activist.
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Why Kenyan Men Rape

Category : Research

Miriam Wangu Kanja, was heading home with friends one evening in December 2002, having come from a client’s office. She was working as a saleslady and the client offered her and a friend a ride home at night. But four gunmen confronted them and robbed them of their valuables. The thugs then put her in the back of the car and drove off, keeping her with them till late in the night as they robbed other motorists. Somewhere along the night the gangsters split, leaving one of them with Miriam in a deserted garage. The man had a loaded gun and he ordered her to take off her clothes. She pleaded for mercy but he ignored, and proceeded to wrestle her to the ground, brutally raping her at gunpoint until it was morning.

No Counselling

When she found her way to a police station, they advised her to record a statement of robbery with violence, with no inclusion of the sexual assault. Miriam experienced immense psychological trauma following the incident. After receiving the necessary medical attention offered to rape victims, she went through depression for months because she had not received any form of counselling.

The stigma associated with rape could not let her to talk about her experience, except with close family and friends. As a result she resorted to heavy drinking. It was only after she received help at the Amani Counselling Center in Nairobi that she was able to cope. Rape, is still considered a taboo topic in our society and, as a result, many victims choose to suffer in silence. In collaboration with a group of friends, Miriam started the Wangu Kanja Foundation in 2006 to assist rape victims and to speak up against sexual violence. At the non-profit making foundation, they work with organisations such as Liverpool VCT, Kenyatta Hospital and Mbagathi Hospital to give assistance to women who have been sexually assaulted. The foundation also assists women who choose to carry their babies to term after a rape incident. They counsel them and help them get a source of livelihood. Says she: "The biggest challenge is the silence of the victims, who view rape as shameful and refuse to open up." She urges families of rape victims to be supportive and ensure the victims get intervention in good time. "Victims need room for expression, and those around them should not try to cover things up and pretend it didn’t happen. In cases where the victim does not get the necessary psychosocial help, they may become potential perpetrators of violence, be it sexual or domestic," she warns.

Who’s to blame?

Miriam says that coming out in public to talk about her experience was greeted sympathy, not empathy. One of the biggest challenges her organisation is experiencing is that where children have been abused, parents take the easy way out by asking the culprits to pay through kangaroo courts because they cannot let it come out in public. Vip Ogola has been a victim of multiple rape incidences. She laments that rape is the only crime in which the victim gets blamed. "If my car is stolen, it is the culprit who is to blame, but when I get raped, society looks for a way to blame me. People say "She got raped because of the way she was dressed or because she encouraged it" but little girls and old women are raped too," she says. Vip says it is wrong that the culprits who indulge in rape will often excuse themselves, claiming that it was the woman’s fault. Says she: "For a long time I blamed myself, until I realised that those men did not respect my boundaries and it was their fault." Further, Vip says that during rape, it’s not just the sex that is traumatising but the words spoken by the perpetrators. "The rapist will often try to justify his actions to the victim while in the act. He will say that he is giving you what you asked for and that you are getting what you deserve. Yet rape is a crime of choice," she explains. A report just released by Samuel M Muchoki and Simiyu Wandibba presents the confessions or testimonies of convicted rapists. Titled An Interplay of Individual Motivations and Socio cultural Factors Predisposing Men to Acts of Rape in Kenya, the report, which was published by the International Journal of Sexual Health, seeks to answer a question ‘Why do men rape?’. "I raped two strangers before I was arrested. The first woman wanted me to help her with shelter for the night. It is a long story, but at night I asked for sex and she refused. So I had to use force. I raped the second woman in the process of committing a robbery. I found her in the bedroom naked. Immediately, I got an erection, and I forgot everything I had come for. I forced her back on the bed," narrates Kim, a 30 year old serial rapist sentenced to death. Samuel, a researcher and anthropologist says: "It came to my interest that, trying to curb the vice, we concentrate on the survivors who actually provide a lot of information on what happened. I decided to get into the minds of the sex offenders." The research was drawn from three prisons, Kamiti, Naivasha and Nyeri with respondents being convicted rapists serving jail terms.

Personal and cultural reasons

And from the interviews, he was able to analyse data, coming out with these main predisposing factors for rape; individual motivation and socio cultural factors, or a combination of both. The individual motivational factors include drug consumption, marital problems as an excuse for rape, inability to negotiate for consensual sex and psychological factors like the influence of pornography. Also cited were rape hallucinations, easy access to sex, and impersonal sex- we will see them deeply, shortly. The socio cultural factors included the view of rape as a sexual act rather than an act of violence, social attitude that the woman ‘invited’ the rape, early childhood environment, cultural practices, peer influence, and a lack of parental advice on sexual activities. Up to 65 per cent of the respondents admitted to having been influenced by drugs, mostly bhang, while 51 per cent claimed to have been drunk. Patrick, a 34-year-old single man condemned to death, says he raped because he was drunk: "I raped a woman who was my workmate. I raped her after a disco. She was attractive, sexy, beautiful, and seductive. On that day, she was in a miniskirt which was tight on the body. Her lipstick was red ‘hot,’ and she was proud. I was stronger and more robust than her, so I overpowered her. I was drunk and did not know I was wronging her." And Dennis, a 44-yea-old married man convicted for defiling his 10 year old niece says he was high on bhang and chang’aa when he did it. The men said that drunken women, when helpless, are easy targets to rape. Steve, a 32-year-old married man charged with defilement of a five-year-old girl, committed the crime because his wife was having an extramarital affair: "My wife was having a relationship with a policeman. I had sex with her daughter when she (the wife) was absent." Effect of pornography And 25-year-old Isaac, charged with defiling a four year old, says that a woman he fellowshipped with trusted him enough to give him shelter. Then he was left in charge of five children, and he lured her four-year-old girl to the bedroom. Also cited is the psychological factor, where victims, mainly girls, come from poor families and are easily lured using favours such as food. About 48.6 per cent of the respondents had been exposed to hardcore pornography, and had developed strong sexual fantasies. Others used impersonal sex to prove their manhood, forcing themselves on women they always admired and who had rejected them. The survey shows that the major enabling factor is the culture and society’s attitude to sex. Michael, a 75-year-old single man charged with rape and manslaughter says; "Where I come from, we do not seduce women; we force them into sex and then marry them. I wanted her to become my wife. I sent my friends to go and entice her to come to my place. They brought her to my house. I had sex with her but did not realise that she was already pregnant. She died after the sex from excessive bleeding." And in his conclusion, Samuel notes that the gender imbalance, and how deeply a community believes in men’s superiority and entitlement to sex, greatly heralds the opportunity for sexual violence. Read more at:

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Kenyan women want justice over post-election sexual violence

Category : Justice

Six years after being gang-raped and beaten in front of her husband and four-year-old child during a wave of post-election violence in Kenya, Nancy is still awaiting justice.

If it were left to the country's director of public prosecutions, Keriako Tobiko, she would never see it. Last month, Tobiko announced that his office would bring no cases related to the 2007-08 atrocities before a new international crimes division (ICD) within the high court.

Nancy refuses to take no for an answer. On Tuesday she and other survivors of sexual and gender-based violence will be in a Nairobi courtroom, suing Tobiko and other senior government officials on numerous counts, including the failure to investigate and prosecute their cases and those of thousands of others.

Tobiko, along with the attorney general, Githu Muigai, another respondent in the case, was happy to promote the ICD to the Rome statute of the international criminal court (ICC) at a meeting of state parties in The Hague in November. Why there? The Kenyan president and deputy president, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, face charges at the ICC related to the post-election violence, so the country's two top prosecutors were eager to leave a good impression with foreign diplomats that Kenya is willing and able to deal with the atrocities domestically.

Indeed, last month Tobiko claimed a special taskforce had reviewed 5,000 cases related to the period, and 1,000 of these had been prosecuted, with 500 convictions. Yet the government will not provide any information to substantiate this claim, which is contradicted by the record of impunity and prior statements about the nature and extent of investigations and prosecutions made by Tobiko's office.

What we do know is that there have never been prosecutions of mid- and senior-level offenders, including many police officers, and that for most survivors, the Kenyan justice system has been unresponsive, at best. After her ordeal, Nancy, aided by other women, went to Nairobi Women's Hospital, where several tests were carried out. Armed with the results, she went to the local police station, where she was given a report number. Many women did not even get that far; their attempts to report crimes were often met with laughter and derision by officers.

Detectives contacted Nancy months later. She showed them where the assault happened and identified her attackers. But the matter was never pursued. She and thousands of other women – and some men – who experienced sexual violence feel abandoned by the government. Kenya's constitution grants Tobiko the authority to order fresh investigations, but he has not done so.

The case being heard on Tuesday is being brought by eight survivors and four civil-society organisations. This is not the first such constitutional case. Last year, a judge in central Kenya ruled that by failing to investigate 160 rapes of girls aged three to 17, Tobiko and the police had "contributed to the development of tolerance for pervasive sexual violence", and that their failures violated multiple provisions of national and international law.

He ordered detectives to investigate the cases of the 11 petitioners concerned, and to implement an article of the constitution that requires the police to implement standards of professionalism, integrity and respect for human rights.   Kenya's 2010 constitution has many progressive elements, and legislators have proposed or approved numerous laws, which, if implemented, would make significant contributions to ending the climate of impunity for sexual violence. They would also strengthen women's rights in such areas as administrative law and democratic representation. But for now, women must continue to fight for a Kenya in which sexual violence is no longer tolerated.   Dr Joan Nyanyuki is executive director of the Nairobi-based Coalition On Violence Against Women, one of the petitioners in Tuesday's case. - Source: The Guardian

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Survivors of Sexual Violence in Kenya Break their Silence

Category : Justice

Kenyans are currently awaiting a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on whether or not the trial in The Hague against President Uhuru Kenyatta will proceed. The Kenyatta case has garnered significant attention because the defendant is a sitting head of state. However, the case is also noteworthy because it represents the only major effort to investigate and initiate prosecution of sexual violence committed against women, men, and children during Kenya’s 2007–2008 post-election violence (PEV). While the ICC’s case against President Kenyatta has received much attention, many Kenyans will be focusing on remarkable public interest litigation unfolding in their own High Court in Nairobi next week. Despite enormous risk, eight courageous survivors broke their silence and demanded action from the government of Kenya, filing a petition in February 2013 against the attorney general, the director of public prosecutions, and members of the police and public health authorities. In addition to the eight survivors (six women and two men) who suffered sexual violence during this period, the petitioners include Physicians for Human Rights, Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW), the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-Kenya), and Independent Medical-Legal Unit (IMLU). The petition demands that it is the government’s responsibility to protect civilians against sexual violence and ensure credible police investigations and prosecutions of these crimes. The petition is premised on the notion that the primary responsibility to protect citizens and provide redress when rights are violated lies with each sovereign state. In this instance, the government of Kenya bears legal responsibility entrenched in the county’s constitution and international and regional human rights treaties adopted by Kenya to enact and enforce laws, establish effective complaint mechanisms, and support competent tribunals that prohibit and sanction sexual violence. Further, the government is obligated to promptly and impartially investigate, prosecute, and punish alleged perpetrators of sexual violence, and provide adequate compensation to victims of these crimes. Moreover, whenever such violence occurs, the government must ensure that survivors have adequate access to medical services and psychological care. After a year of postponements and deferrals, a hearing of the petition is finally scheduled to take place in the High Court of Kenya on Tuesday, March 25, 2014, during which the eight survivors will assert their rights and have an opportunity to hold the government to account. Their testimonies will reveal that the government failed not only to train and prepare law enforcement officials to protect civilians from sexual violence, but also denied survivors emergency medical services following the violations. Furthermore, even as the director of public prosecutions insists that there is no evidence to prosecute PEV cases, the survivors will demonstrate that the police refused to document their claims and that the government’s continued inaction represents persistent and willful neglect to codify effective measures to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators. The survivors will also argue that the government has failed to provide comprehensive reparations. The eight petitioners, of course, are not the only survivors of the widespread and brutal acts of sexual violence perpetrated during the PEV. They are representative of more than 900 other victims, whose testimonies and reports were submitted to the Commission of Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence (CIPEV) in 2008, detailing gruesome incidents of individual and gang rape, defilement, forced circumcision, sodomy, and other forms of sexual brutality. These violations resulted in severe physical injuries and detrimental psychological and socio-economic effects, among other serious health complications, that many survivors have borne over the last six years. As both international legal principles and Kenya’s constitution mandate, the state has the responsibility to comprehensively punish the perpetrators of these violations and provide redress to survivors. This case provides the government of Kenya with the chance to finally articulate its political will and commitment to meaningfully addressing PEV crimes and combatting sexual violence, particularly against vulnerable groups such as women and children who are consistently disproportionately affected by this vice. Let’s hope the government of Kenya does not miss this historic opportunity. - Source: Physicians For Human Rights

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One third of Kenyan girls subjected to sexual violence – survey

Category : Research

NAIROBI (TrustLaw) – Nearly one in three Kenyan girls experience sexual violence before the age of 18, according to a report launched by the Kenyan government and the United Nations on Wednesday. Three quarters of Kenyan children experience physical, sexual or emotional violence, according to the findings of the first nationwide household survey of more than 3,000 young people aged 13 to 24. “The survey results depict a sobering picture of pervasive and insidious violence that afflicts the entire country,” Naomi Shaban, minister of gender, children and social development, said at the launch of the Violence Against Children Survey. Sexual violence – defined as sexual touching or attempted sex against the child’s will or coerced or forced sex – was experienced by 32 percent of Kenyan girls and 18 percent of boys before the age of 18. This figure is much higher than that of the government’s 2008/9 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey which found that one in five women and girls are victims of sexual violence. Rape is rarely reported in Kenya due to stigma and a lack of faith in the police and the criminal justice system, although the country has strong legislation to protect children from sexual assault. The survey found that the most common perpetrators were boyfriends or girlfriends, followed by neighbours and family members. One in three girls who were raped became pregnant as a result. Only three percent of sexually abused girls received professional help. There was a clear correlation between experience of sexual violence and engagement in risky sexual behaviour. Girls who were victims of unwanted touching or rape were four times as likely as other girls to have multiple sexual partners. Physical violence – defined as punching, kicking, whipping or being threatened with a weapon – was most widely experienced. Almost six out of 10 children had been physically abused by an authority figure, most commonly teachers. More than half the respondents had experienced physical violence at the hands of relatives.


Most disturbing among the findings was that the majority of children accepted violence in the home as normal, particularly if they themselves had experienced it. “Much of violence against children… remains hidden and at times is socially approved or acceptable. That is very sad,” said Franklin Esipila, permanent secretary in the ministry of gender, children and social development. Among girls aged 18 to 24, 49 percent condoned violence by a husband towards his wife. This increased to 56 percent among girls who had experienced childhood violence. Unsurprisingly, the figures for boys were even worse. There was 62 percent approval of domestic violence among boys aged 18 to 24 who had not been abused, rising to 65 percent among those who had experienced violence themselves. “These attitudes must change in order to help mitigate the occurrence of domestic violence, both against women and against children,” the report said. “This remains the single greatest area for policy reform at the national level.” Other social attitudes and practices that justify violence against children identified by the survey include the use of violence as a form of discipline, child labour, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, prejudice against disabled children, family breakdown, homophobia and the myth that sex with virgins can cure HIV/AIDS.


A 2006 U.N. report found that 14 percent of girls and seven percent of boys around the world experience sexual violence. “Violence breeds violence,” it said. “In later life, child victims of violence are more likely to be victims or perpetrators themselves.” It also found that violence perpetuates poverty, illiteracy and early death. “The physical, emotional and psychological scars of violence rob children of their chance to fulfil their potential,” the report said. “Ending violence will increase opportunities for development and growth.” The Kenyan government said it plans to set up child protection centres, staffed by social welfare officers, across the country to help abused children. The survey found that just one in four girls and one in eight boys knew where to get help after they were sexually abused. Childline Kenya, a free national helpline for children, receives 40,000 calls a month.

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The Accountability Gap on Sexual Violence in Kenya

Category : Research

This briefing paper reviews the Kenyan government’s response to sexual and gender-based violence committed against women, men, and children during the 2007/2008 post-election crisis. It draws on interviews with over 40 survivors about their experience and analyzes the laws and transitional justice mechanisms, like the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence, that have been put in place to address violations of the past and prevent their recurrence. It includes a set of recommendations to the government, the Attorney-General’s Office, and the National Police Service Commission on closing the accountability gap. ICTJ-Briefing-Kenya-SGBVAccountability-2014.pdf

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Nairobi’s ‘miniskirt’ march exposes sexual violence in Kenya

Category : Research

At the busy intersection of Accra Road and Tom Mboya Street in downtown Nairobi, a cacophony of voices clamour to be heard. Buses and vans vie for space on the roadside, and touts solicit passengers to ply their routes. Nearly everyone is on the move. Shortly after 12pm on 17 November, one noise superseded all the rest – that of more than 200 women, plus a few men, marching, blowing whistles, chanting and yelling for their constitutional right to be protected from sexual violence, and to wear a miniskirt. Ten days ago, according to Kenyan media reports, a woman wearing a red dress was stripped by a mob of men at this spot. They accused her of being inappropriately dressed. According to a driver and co-driver of a minibus who recall the assault, two men began it but others quickly joined in – “for fun”, the co-driver, Robert Ndungata, said. Driver Juguna Maina said he and others tried to stop them, but failed. “You can’t control the mob,” he said. A passer-by captured the attack on his mobile phone, and the video was posted on YouTube. It was one of a number of such incidents to play out on social media in recent months, but none had captured the public’s attention to such an extent. Twitter was ablaze with hashtags, some advocating for women to cover up rather than be #scantilydressed, others arguing #MyDressMyChoice. It quickly escalated into a debate about women’s rights. A link to the video was posted to a Facebook group, Kilimani Mums Nairobi, part of an online support network for mothers. On 12 November, a group of 10 Kilimani mums, connected only by social media, met for the first time. They decided it was their duty “to deliver a message to the touts who who stripped our sister that it is wrong and a woman has the right to dress the way she sees fit”, Kilimani mum Ruth Knaust wrote to members of the Facebook group. From this seed, the #MyDressMyChoice march was born. Sexual violence is widespread in Kenya. A 2010 national survey (pdf) indicated that 32% of girls experienced sexual violence before becoming adults. Being stripped in public is nothing new in Kenya, says Christopher Kirwa, who turned out to support the #MyDressMyChoice movement. In the early 1990s, there was a lot of stripping, he says. The difference now is that it is more visible and there is more awareness of it, due largely to social media. Kirwa, who owns an experimental marketing agency, was shocked when Robert Alai, an influential Kenyan blogger, tweeted in support of forcibly undressing women. “There’s more to it than lack of education. On social media, there are ladies supporting what happened. The educated masses that are supporting it tells me we have a bigger problem,” he said. “Kenya is becoming more free, more liberal, more modernised, and there are people who are against that,” said Yvonne Kerre, the owner of a chain of clothing stores, Miss Kerre Fashions, that is thriving thanks to women becoming more expressive. Some churches in Nairobi have spoken out against wearing short skirts, both at church and outside. Minibus touts in downtown Nairobi speak of an invisible line across the city, dividing where it’s acceptable to be seen in a short skirt, and where it’s not. The general consensus is that one inch above the knee is the limit. It’s clear that there is a strong, conservative core. Two women, a bus conductor and an inspector, working on the Embassava bus stand where the stripping incident allegedly happened, believe that any skirt above the knee is morally reprehensible, and that the woman in red, who was stripped here, was the one in the wrong. “If she’s raped, it’s her fault,” says Naomi Mang’era, the inspector, of any women who wear “micro-mini skirts”. “Our country should be like Uganda – short skirts should be banned,” says a male bus tout. The two women agree. “One has to locate this in the general discrimination against women, widespread stereotypes and chauvinistic tendencies of our society,” says Amnesty’s east Africa researcher, Japhet Biegon. There has been progress, he says; in 2006, Kenya enacted the Sexual Offences Act, which defined what sexual offences were. Before that it was a moral issue, the legal system skewed in favour of perpetrators. The Milimani Mums are calling for police to operate mobile units so that women can report cases from the safety of their own homes. Lilian Manegene, one of the protest’s co-organisers, says there are laws in place to protect women, but they are not enforceable because the victims are afraid of going to a police station. Currently, victims must report cases in person at police stations. Kenya’s truth, justice and reconciliation commission took this recommendation one step further, advocating a one-stop centre for victims of sexual violence to receive medical care and counselling, give evidence, and deal with police, under one roof in a place where they feel safe. The only voice absent from the noisy proceedings on 17 November was that of the woman in red whose stripping sparked it all. “The lady in red is sitting somewhere,” shouted Manegene, addressing the crowd. “We are living in fear.” “We hope by the end of this she’ll be bold enough to come out,” a bystander remarked. - Source: The Guardian

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Slow gains recorded in fight against sexual violence

Category : News

Personal initiative remains the most effective way of fighting Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV). Teaching close family members and communities how to detect, prevent and report cases of S/GBV may be the only guard against falling victim to perpetrators since the vice cuts across all socio-economic groups in Kenya. Statistics from Gender Violence Recovery Centre, a department of the Nairobi Women’s Hospital shows that the total number of SGBV cases reported in 2011-12 were 2,954. This was 45 cases more compared to the previous year. There was a marked increase of physical violence reported during the same period from 388 to 422. “These statistics are harrowing,” says Mr. Kennedy Otina, Men to Men Programme Coordinator, FEMNET, who moderated a gender forum on the 27th of February 2014. “One of five women face sexual violence and 45% of women between 15 years to 45 years have experienced physical or sexual violence in Kenya.” Notably, a girl is raped every thirty minutes. Attentive to the panel discussion

Forum inspires formulation of policies

Heinrich Boell Stiftung partnered with FEMNET and Africa UNITE Kenya chapter to convene the forum attracting 224 participants drawn from academia, civil activists, government institutions, students and the general public to share knowledge and inspire renewed action on issues of S/GBV. Although there was general agreement on the strides made by the government towards formulating policies, including the Sexual offence Act 2006, the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and the ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) that empower institutions to tackle SGBV crimes, there is laxity in law enforcement which continues to persist. 224 people attending the Gender Forum on SGBV in Kenya This was clearly exposed by a Meru Court last year after finding police guilty of failing to enforce existing laws to reported cases in the region. In the case, known as ‘160 girls project’, legal professionals from Malawi, Ghana and Kenya worked to secure legal remedies to force the state to protect girls from sexual violence and hold rapists accountable. It was a landmark accomplishment. Applauding on the boldness of the girls for facing their perpetrators- some of them close family members, Ms. Jane Serwanga, an advocate of the High Court and former Deputy Executive DirectorFIDA Kenya says that they had to develop a strategy since the shelter in Meru where the girls sought refuge was exhausted at the prevalence of the cases. “We tore into each other in the quest of seeking justice for these girls and protecting women in future.” 224 people attending the Gender Forum on SGBV in Kenya Despite this triumph, there have been consistent failures by law enforcement.Justice for Liz campaign revealed the lack of initiative by police in Busia to arrest six boys who had violently gang-raped a 16 year old girl. In fact, the perpetrators walked free while the girl languished in hospital from debilitating injuries. The ineptitude led to a massive outcry by advocacy groups from within the country and abroad. Making reference to a recent statement issued by the Inspector General of the police, Ms. Njeri Rugene, a Parliamentary Editor at the Nation Media Group who first exposed the story is perterbed that, “Instead of the police focusing on investigations, they went into what seems to be a cover up strategy from the top echelons of the institution. Justice has been denied to the family which has been uprooted from their home due to insecurity and stigmatization from the community.” A table discusses the norms and values that perpetuate or curb GBV Over 1.3 million people worldwide signed a petition demanding for justice. In February, the director of public prosecution announced that he would be moving to court to prosecute the suspects and a commission would investigate reports of negligence by the police who handled the case.

Hesitation in reporting SGBV incidences

In their defense, the police through media reports have insisted that there was delay in reporting the case claiming it was an afterthought after the survivor experienced increased complications following the incident. The forum learned that there were claims that arbitration had been made between the family and the perpetrators, a fact that is questionable in criminal law. These are among challenges hampering justice of SGBV. The Deputy Executive Director and Programme manager of COVAW Ms. Lydia Muthiani says that the first point of referral makes or breaks the case. The victim hesitantly approaches family members because the society still harbours a negative mindset towards the vice and may fail to proceed to the next point. If the matter proceeds to the second stage, which is in seeking service provision from the police and healthcare providers, challenges arise in the handling of the evidence. Oftentimes it is tampered with and hence cannot hold in the court of law. “We are asking that whatever evidence is available should be tested in the courts of law. There are also options for civil action.” Wanja speaks during plenary discussions Collecting data from national and county level The gravity of the situation is heightened by lack of instruments for data collection. This is the situation facing the National Gender Equality Commission (NGEC), a Constitutional office established in 2011 with a mandate to oversee, coordinate, research and advise on actions to reduce gender inequalities and discrimination on any grounds as listed in the Constitution. Lack of credible holistic data handicaps all actors from analyzing the situation and assessing cost implications thus retarding progress. The commission aims to remedy this by embarking on a process of gathering data in order to advice government and other actors on policy review and gaps in implementation. Summarising the world cafe discussions during plenary According to Ms. Wangu Kanja, founder of Wangu Kanja Foundation, an organization that champions against SGBV, lack of clear data analysis is fueling the crimes. “Every day we have new cases experienced but the magnitude is not known and hence not well addressed.” She opined that because of this, the issues of men and boys, who also fall victim to sexual and gender based violence, are not well articulated or responded to. The statistics of cases of SGBV are unacceptable A response from the World Café session during plenary yielded some insightful responses from the participants. Patriarchal norms are a major factor which continually perpetuates sexual violence, especially against women in Kenya. Traditional dowry payment in most Kenyan communities objectifies women thus most men treat their wives as a commodity rather than as a human being who has got rights and freedoms. There is therefore need to address these seemingly harmless sexual allusions by tackling them at the subtle level before it becomes a sexual and gender based violence issue. Trivializing sexual and gender based violence by the police is also an obstacle in trying to access justice by majority of the victims. Consequently, as Phillip Otieno pointed out, there is need to continually build capacity of the police through gender sensitization to enable them effectively respond to cases of gender violence.

Keeping to commitments

Prof. Rose Odhiambo, CEO of the National Gender and Equality Commission informed the forum, “We are in the process of coming up with the cost implications of managing SGBV," which, according to Mr. Wafula of the Liverpool VCT is tremendous, possibly surpassing the cost of managing malaria and road accidents combined! The country is also in the process of monitoring progress on achievement of objectives of key conventions such as Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and others. This means that Kenya is committed to reforms in regards to SGBV. The commission has been convening all stakeholders involved in the fight against S/GBV. Prof. Odhiambo however lays emphasis on the need for personal involvement in fighting S/GBV. Download here the full Report on the Gender Forum: Sexual and Gender Based Violence. Read More: