6 July 2010

Kenya: Rape Menace for Slum Women

Photo: Amnesty International
A woman steps across the polluted water course that runs through Soweto village in Kibera, Kenya.

Nairobi — Women and girls in Nairobi's slums live under constant threat of sexual violence, a new report says.

Because of this, they are too scared to leave their houses to use communal toilets, says the report to be released on Wednesday by human rights group Amnesty International.

Titled Insecurity and dignity -- women's experiences in the slums of Nairobi, the report details how the government's failure to incorporate slums in urban planning has resulted in poor access to services.

"Women in Nairobi's settlements become prisoners in their own homes at night and sometimes well before it is dark," AI East African researcher Godfrey Odongo says.

"They need more privacy than men when using the toilet or bathing and inaccessibility of facilities makes them vulnerable to rape."

Mr Odongo says inability to access the limited communal toilets also puts them at risk of illness.

The government is accused of neglecting security in the slums, with Kibera, Nairobi's largest slum and home to one million people, having no police post or station.

"I always underestimated the threat of violence," says 19-year-old Amina of Mathare slums. "I would go to the latrine any time if it was not too late until about two months ago when I almost became a rape victim."

The report says Amina was accosted by four men at about 7pm. They assaulted her, undressed her and were about to rape her when residents alerted by her screams came to her rescue.

Although she knew one of the assailants, Amina did not go to the police as she feared reprisal attacks.

Unable to leave their one-roomed houses after dark, many women resort to "flying toilets" where plastic bags with human waste are flung into the streets.

The women tell Amnesty about the widespread disposal of human waste in the open because of lack of inadequate toilets, contributing to poor health.

Others describe the humiliation of bathing before their relatives and children.

"There is a big difference between what the government commits to do, and what is going on in the slums," Mr Odongo says.

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