Reposted from EqualityNow.org
While walking home from her grandfather’s funeral in Busia County in late June 2013, 16-year-old Liz was brutally gang raped by six men. Following the rape the perpetrators dumped Liz, unconscious and battered, down a pit latrine.
Liz was ultimately rescued by nearby villagers and the attack was reported at the Tingolo Administration Police Camp the next day. Three of the suspects were apprehended, but the police officer on duty astonishingly recorded the attack as a mere “assault.” After completing their “punishment” of cutting the grass outside the police station, they were released from custody.
Tragically, as a result of the attack Liz was confined to a wheelchair and developed obstetric fistula, rendering her incontinent. Liz is now recovering after surgery and is receiving counseling to help her overcome her trauma, but has been unable to return to school due to her continued hospitalization.
The Lack of Punishment
A global campaign known as #JusticeForLiz, spearheaded in October 2013 by Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) and African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) in Kenya, acquired more than 1.5 million signatures from around the globe demanding that the Inspector General of Police, David Kimaiyo, arrest and prosecute the suspects.
However seven months later, little progress has been made in attaining justice for Liz. The authorities have re-apprehended only one of the three original suspects, mitigated his criminal charge from rape to “causing grievous bodily harm,” and have not held any subsequent hearings. The other suspects have allegedly fled to neighboring Uganda.
Due to the apparent missteps in this specific case and the continued failure of Kenyan authorities to properly address sexual violence cases, Equality Now, together with our partners through the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) coalition, joins COVAW and FEMNET in calling for justice for Liz and all survivors and victims of sexual violence.
Common Responses of the Kenyan Authorities
Liz’s case highlights a common response by the Kenyan authorities to crimes of sexual violence:
- Not taking crimes of sexual violence seriously: only the Attorney General has the authority to discontinue an investigation into a sexual violence complaint per the 2006 Sexual Offences Act. Yet in this case, police officers erroneously “arbitrated” what should have been a criminal prosecution – a fact later admitted by the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Kimaiyo – and released the suspects based on their assertion that “the condition of the girl was not serious.”
- Victim challenging and blaming with no regard for evidence or context: in a 2 November 2013 press statement, Mr. Kimaiyo also made troubling statements about the facts of Liz’s case. He questioned the legitimacy of Liz’s story, stating that the short time span between Liz’s screams and the response time for villagers was “too short for six assailants to have gang raped her.” He also attacked Liz’s credibility by questioning the timeframe it took for Liz to tell her family and medical professionals that she had been raped, ignoring the traumatic impact sexual violence can have on survivors.
- Slow processes, delaying and/or denying justice: in early November 2013, Kenya’s Chief Justice Willy Mutunga referred the case to Kenya’s top-level judicial oversight body, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who officially stated that it had received her file and was taking appropriate action to safeguard the investigation and subsequent prosecution. The DPP has failed yet to issue its report on the case, which was due for release 10 December 2013.
Liz’s case occurred on the heels of a landmark judgment for victims of sexual violence passed by the Kenyan High Court in May 2013 in a class action suit, known as the 160 Girls Case, on behalf of girls whose cases of sexual violence had been mishandled by the police.
The Court held that “the neglect, omission, refusal and/or failure of the police to conduct prompt, effective, proper and professional investigations” into the many complaints of sexual violence violated the girls’ fundamental rights and freedoms, and ordered the Commissioner and Inspector General of Police to conduct “prompt, effective, proper and professional investigations.” However, this case indicates Kenya’s continuing failure to adequately investigate and prosecute all sexual violence crimes.
A 2013 report by the Kenyan Minister for Gender, Children and Social Development, detailed a grave picture of sexual violence in the country: 1 in 5 Kenyan women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. An estimated 45% of Kenyan women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical or sexual violence – and these numbers are likely to be much higher, as COVAW estimates that only 8% of rape survivors report the attack to authorities.
Survivors of sexual violence in Kenya often face re-victimization when reporting their cases, as authorities often engage in harmful behaviors that diminish the survivor’s sense of confidence in the judicial process, including: showing disbelief or skepticism towards complainants, employing aggressive interviewing techniques that are embarrassing and invasive, victim-blaming, and questioning the victim’s motives for reporting the crime.
Authorities Not Helpful
A 2009 case study of gender desks at Nairobi police stations illustrated that 52% of people who reported gender violence considered the police “not helpful” and 39% said police were “reluctant to record statements.” Another 20% were asked for bribes to pursue their case, and 28% felt “humiliated and handled without courtesy and dignity.”
Here’s how you can help. Click on this link and look for the TAKE ACTION NOW link.
Please sign this petition, it is not fair that women and girls are treated this way. I know if it happened to anyone in my family, I’d be ripping heads off. I did my part now you do yours. Thank you.