14 December 2017

Kenya: State Blocked Probe Into Election-Related Sexual Violence - HRW

Photo: Daily Nation
Anti-riot police officers attempt to disperse protesters supporting opposition leader Raila Odinga at Obunga slum, in Kisumu County (file photo).

The government has been accused of failing to prevent and conduct credible investigations into all allegations of elections-related sexual violence.

According to a report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW), some women who tried to report sexual violence said that police sent them away without taking statements, ridiculed or verbally abused them, or failed to follow up on complaints.

RAPED

HRW senior women's rights researcher Agnes Odhiambo called on the government to properly investigate cases, hold attackers accountable, and ensure that survivors have access to comprehensive, quality and timely post-rape care.

"Some who were raped in the presence of family members said they were raped vaginally and anally, penetrated with objects or that dirt was inserted into their private parts," she said, and added that a girl died after being raped in at least one case.

Mrs Odhiambo revealed that most women said they were raped by policemen or men in uniform, many of whom carried guns, batons, teargas canisters, whips and wore helmets and other anti-riot gear.

Many women and girls said they suffered incapacitating physical injury or experienced other health consequences that left some unable to work or care for their families.

VICTIMS

The Human Rights Watch interviewed 68 females, three male survivors of sexual violence and 12 witnesses in Mathare, Dandora, Kibera, Kisumu and Bungoma in western Kenya.

In one of the interviews, a 27-year-old woman who had given birth on August 7 said she was raped by three policemen on August 11.

"I feel useless," she said, describing her life afterward. "I don't speak to people. I feel so sad. I feel as if I have reached the end. I think of killing myself."

POST-RAPE CARE

Mrs Odhiambo noted as unfortunate that most had not received post-rape medical or psychological care, including medication to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and unwanted pregnancy.

The barriers included insecurity, the cost of services or transportation, stigma, lack of health facilities and lack of information about the importance of timely treatment or where survivors could get free treatment.

"Some women who received medical treatment said that the services were not comprehensive, there was no forensic documentation of sexual violence, or that they did not get appropriate referrals for medical treatment, counselling support or to the criminal justice system," she noted.

Mrs Odhiambo reiterated that sexual violence survivors should not be left suffering and ashamed of being victims while the Kenyan government shows no shame at failing to meet their needs or to prosecute their attackers.

"Instead of downplaying the election-related sexual abuse, the Kenyan government should ensure that all survivors get appropriate medical care and justice," she said.

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