Category Archives: Research

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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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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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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

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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