7 July 2010

Kenya: Tales of Agony at the Hands of Slum Rapists

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

Nairobi — Mama Josseh, 56, has lived in Mathare Valley slums long enough to experience the effects of gang crime first hand. And she blames it or on young people.

"What is wrong with young men these days? They have no respect for old people. They have no morals," she says with a suppressed bitterness. (Like the others in this story, the Nation has concealed her true identity.)

Mama Josseh, who runs a kiosk, looks calm and disciplined but she confesses to be nervous in the face of young men, especially after 7 pm. It was two years ago when three young men stormed her house, ransacked it and raped her in turns.

"I pleaded that I was old enough to be their mother but they could hear none of," she told the Nation."I realised they were indeed determined in their mission. I disclosed to them that I was using anti-retroviral drugs to sustain myself but they could not listen."

After the rape, which lasted an hour, the men stole her household items and left. And she never bothered to go to the hospital. "For what other check up now? I am already in that situation."

The mother of four tested positive to HIV about three years ago. Mama Josseh says rape is a routine in the slums and due to lack of support from the police, women are getting increasingly disparate.

Because of insecurity and the threat of rape, women in the slums cannot venture out of their houses after night--even to use the few communal latrines. Most structures in the slums have no latrines. Landlords consider them a luxury.

The Nation met Judy Wanjiku as she was moving to a different area which she considers secure. Recently, Wanjiku, 26, was confronted by a man who attempted to rape her as she walked to the toilet.

"The man grabbed me and started dragging me into the dark. I screamed my heart out for help. That was when he let go of and run away," says the mother of a four-year-old. She washes clothes for a living.

Due to the long distances between their houses and the toilets, the women suffer the indignity of taking a bathe before their adult children and using "flying toilets" -- plastic bags thrown away after use instead of a toilet.

A number of women cannot no longer venture out of their houses and walk to the toilets, especially at night, because of rapists who wait near the few latrines at night.

Few rape cases are reported to the police who are lacking in most of the slum areas. For instance, Kibera, Nairobi's largest and home to more than a million people has no police station. The vast slum has only a chief's camp and a few Administration Police officers.

A report by Amnesty International released in Nairobi on Wednesday says most of the women cannot afford "commercial latrines" for which they are required to pay Sh5 per call of nature.

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