Nairobi — A new phone app will help Kenyans secure justice for children who have been raped by explaining the steps the police should take when investigating rape and enabling the victims' families to report cases where officers fail to act.
Almost 1,000 local government officials, religious leaders and headteachers and 4,800 students will be trained to use the free android phone app over the next six months.
"If you don't get justice for your friend or your sister, then this is the app that you use," said Fiona Sampson, executive director of the Equality Effect, a legal rights network working to combat child rape, or defilement, in Kenya.
"If you are reporting a defilement and there's any kind of challenge with the police, then you can immediately contact the Equality Effect."
One in three Kenyan girls experience sexual violence before the age of 18, government data shows, but it is rarely reported due to stigma and lack of faith in the police and the criminal justice system.
In the four pilot counties - Nairobi, Mombasa, Meru and Kakamega - where the app is being rolled out, the Equality Effect connects the victim with a local rape shelter, which will work with the police to ensure the case is followed up.
The Equality Effect has trained 700 police officers in these counties in the best practices for investigating child rape, following a 2013 court ruling which ordered the force to investigate and prosecute all child rape cases brought to them.
The case was brought by a rescue centre in Meru, 240 km (150 miles) northeast of the capital Nairobi, which said the police had failed to investigate over 160 child rape cases it reported.
"The NPS (National Police Service) has been carrying out reforms and we are committed to ensuring that we deliver services to the public as is expected of us," Inspector General Joseph Boinett said in a statement read at the launch.
The app outlines 12 steps a police investigation should take, from recording the complaint to arresting the accused, with guidance such as making sure the victim is interviewed in a private place.
The police must not ask for money to buy petrol for their vehicles or to issue forms, it says, common problems with Kenya's overstretched, poorly paid 80,000-strong force.
The app also explains that it is illegal for victims' families to settle cases out of court, usually in exchange for money or goats, as this is an obstruction of justice.
- Reporting by Katy Migiro; Editing by Ros Russell