Author Archives: WKF Activist

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Survivors of sexual violence want peace and justice to reign in Kenya

Category : Justice , News , Research

Failure by the government to act on recommendations of the documented horrors in the 2007/8 Post Election Violence (PEV) report compiled by the Justice Philip Waki-led Commission on Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence (CIPEV) continues to be a source of concern which only compounds the fears of Kenyans. Almost ten years on from Kenya's brush with all-out civil war, the Waki Commission findings together with the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) report remain dusty reference materials on government shelves. Read More...

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Founder of group for survivors of rape and gender based violence in talks with our University over research links

Category : Uncategorized

imageKenyan activist meets with researchers at our University and practitioners at Leicester Rape Crisis
L-R Dr Lisa Smith, Lynda Yorke (manager of Leicester Rape Crisis), Wangu Kanja, Dr Clare Gunby (UoL), Meirion Reynolds (Honorary President of Leicester Rape Crisis).

An activist who survived a harrowing rape and carjacking, and went on to establish a Foundation for victims of sexual and gender based violence, is in discussion with our University over establishing a research partnership.

Ms. Wangu Kanja, a Kenyan woman who founded and is director of the Wangu Kanja Foundation is participating in workshops and conversations organised by Dr Lisa Smith from our Department of Criminology. The aim is to strengthen collaborations in research relating to sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict settings and other low-resource environments. This is linked to the project Dr Smith leads with colleagues in the Department of Genetics developing forensic DNA recovery techniques for women in developing countries. Wangu Kanja said: “Amplifying the voices of survivors requires ‘all hands on deck’ and so building a relationship with the University of Leicester is crucial for linking research with national priorities in Kenya.”
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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

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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: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/1144029185/why-kenyan-men-rape

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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.

MAJORITY CONDONE VIOLENCE

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.

VIOLENCE PERPETUATES POVERTY

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