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Rape trauma haunts Kenyan women after post-poll violence

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Sexual violence cases against women and girls during Kenya’s most recent post-election chaos continue to raise concern with women leaders and human rights groups demanding that perpetrators be brought to book.

Under the banner Women for Peace, the lobby groups claim scores of women were either raped or sexually harassed by law enforcement officers in areas considered volatile including Kibera, Mathare, and Kisumu.

Margaret Achieng*, a Kisumu resident narrated how four men in uniform assaulted her.

“I could hear these men shouting from outside, ordering me to open the door on the pretext that they were looking for criminals who I was harbouring in my house. They kicked the door open; I was inside with my children including my 14-year-old daughter,” Achieng said.

“They hit us with their long guns and dragged me to the floor, where they all raped me in turns as they laughed. Attempts to scream were met with slaps and beatings. They did the same to my daughter,” she narrated amid sobs.

Even though no clear figure has been given of women who were assaulted, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, Risk of Sexual Violence Around Kenya’s Repeat Election, confirms that sexual violence against women and girls was rife during the recent post-election violence.

The study interviewed more than 50 victims and witnesses in Mathare, Kisumu, Bungoma, and Dandora, who cited “rape, gang rape, attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching, and beatings on their genitals, including by members of security forces and militia groups and civilians”.

Only a few cases were reported due to fear of retaliation or stigma, according to the October 2017 report.

Women leaders have been calling on the government to be at the forefront of protecting women.

Nairobi County Woman Representative, Esther Passaris urged authorities to ‘play their constitutional role by protecting the rights of women and girls’.

She further asked the government to establish a compensation fund for affected women as this would go a long way in taking care of their medical treatment and other needs.

She regretted that those who were sexually assaulted during the 2007/2008 post-election violence had not yet been compensated.

Similarly, one of the recommendations by HRW is a credible plan by the government to ensure that sexual assault victims get timely and quality post-rape treatment.

Passaris condemned the violence, saying women bore the brunt of violence.

“We want to speak out against the unwarranted violence. Women are bystanders to the conflict, yet they are the ones exposed to violence.”

*Name changed to protect the woman’s identity.

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