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Kenya: Evil From Within And Without

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  • Djehuti Sundaka
    http://www.africana.com/articles/daily/bw20030731kenya.asp The Rape of Kenya For nearly three decades British troops stationed in Kenya have been raping local
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2003
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      http://www.africana.com/articles/daily/bw20030731kenya.asp
      The Rape of Kenya

      For nearly three decades British troops stationed in Kenya have been
      raping local women. Finally, the women are fighting back.

      By Charles Wachira

      "I was herding my husband's livestock one afternoon when I noticed two
      uniformed white soldiers coming towards me," says Selina Letowon Kisio,
      a 46-year-old woman from Kenya's Maasai community. "And since I was
      perennially afraid of government people and [was] alone, I started
      walking away from them. They quickened their steps and I fled when I
      heard them shouting at me. I could not hear what they were saying as I
      stumbled and fell, all of the time they continued running after me.

      "They caught up with me and both got hold of me, one holding my arms as
      the other raped me. They did this in turns several times. I was scared.
      I screamed. There were no people around that place. When they were
      through, they left me crying and ran away."

      Afterwards, she says, she wearily trudged home where she relayed her
      ordeal to her mother-in-law. At the time her husband and father-in-law
      were not at home. The following morning Kisio visited the nearby Dol Dol
      Health Center, where she was treated. Upon returning home from the
      medical center, she found an unusually quiet husband.

      "My mother-in-law had told him about the incident," she says. "He was
      furious. Not at the rapists who had defiled me but at me. I was
      devastated. He told me to my face that he could no longer live with a
      woman who had slept with majoni [the local parlance used derisively to
      describe collectively the British soldiers]. He then left the compound
      the same day and took all the livestock with him."

      Vulnerable even to the local authorities, Kisio avoided reporting the
      matter to the police. She vividly relives the incident as if it took
      place only yesterday, but it happened 27 years ago. And she was not
      alone.

      Earlier this summer a group of about 650 women won the right to sue the
      English Ministry of Defense for its failure to stop nearly three decades
      of systematic rape committed by British soldiers who trained in Kenya
      over a period of nearly 30 years. Today the women are beginning to
      retaliate, and they are using the tools of the British justice system to
      gain their day in court.

      Martyn Day, a British attorney and a partner at the firm of Leigh Day
      and Company, is representing the women. He blames racism for the way the
      soldiers acted, and the way they were protected from prosecution.

      "British troops have done terrible things to Kenyans," Day says. "Things
      they would never do in Germany, Canada or England where they train. But
      when it comes to Kenya, they seem to have thrown their rulebook away. I
      feel very strongly that it also behooves Kenyan authorities to conduct
      their own investigations into these claims of terrible treatment of
      Kenyan citizens."

      The crimes left behind injuries physical as well as psychic, and often
      caused devastating financial and social consequences, as many raped
      women were discarded by their husbands after recounting the crimes
      committed against them. Hundreds of mixed-race children bear tangible
      witness to the legacy.

      Such is the case with Elizabeth Naiku, now 50, whose 24-year-old son
      Maxwell Kabooi was fathered by a British rapist.

      Through an interpreter, Naiku recalls the evening in 1978 when a gang of
      soldiers forced their way into her house in Dol Dol township.

      "I was with a friend of mine called Gathambi," she says. "We heard
      knocks on the door. Gathambi went to check who it was, six men in
      military uniform got inside, as the door was not locked. We could not
      understand what they were saying in English, but we could tell they were
      offering us money that was in their hands in exchange of sex. But we
      declined and were afraid. But when we tried to run out, three of them
      got hold of me, and the other trio held Gathambi. They raped us in turns
      as they held our mouths so we could not scream. They appeared drunk."

      Naiku explains why she kept quiet about the violation. "This is a
      shameful thing," she says. "Our people do not talk about such terrible
      things. Women keep it to themselves for fear of being isolated and
      scandalized. All the same, neighbors had heard the commotion in my house
      the previous night, and word soon went round that Gathambi together with
      my self had been gang-raped by majoni. I nearly committed suicide."

      After the incident, she lived in horror of not knowing how her husband
      and father of her five children would react upon returning home.

      "He could not bear the news that I had been raped by the majonis and
      things deteriorated when, nine months later, I gave birth to a boy of
      mixed race," she says. "He abandoned me with my children and has since
      remarried."

      Finally, after years of official stonewalling, the English have mustered
      a four-man team representing the Special Investigations Branch of the
      Royal Military Police, which spent five days in Kenya this spring
      interviewing the victims. Quite a change from the meetings in 1983, when
      the army promised investigations — only to stand by while two more
      decades of rapes occurred.

      Many of the interviews took place in the Mukogodo Division of Lakipia
      District, a sparsely populated enclave located 400 kilometers northeast
      of Nairobi, the country's capital. There, in a community that tends to
      treat sexuality as a taboo subject, many victims and witnesses still
      find it hard to speak of what happened.

      The lawsuit would award each woman $20,000, a healthy windfall in a
      nation whose per capita income is just $375. But no amount of money will
      restore what these women lost.

      "Personally I would want to see them punished for their beastly
      behaviour and the pain they inflicted on me," says Kisio. "If
      compensation is paid, it will alleviate the suffering the soldiers
      plunged me into, including being left to fend for my children. But it
      won't reverse what they did to me or erase the memories."

      First published: July 31, 2003
      About the Author

      Charles Wachira is a Kenyan journalist based in Nairobi.


      http://www.amnestyusa.org/women/rape_in_kenya.html
      Rape in Kenya

      from Interact, Spring, 2002

      Violence against women is widespread in Kenya. Every day, women are
      physically and sexually abused. Rape occurs in all social and ethnic
      groups. It is a crime that shocks and traumatizes the victim and
      reflects the acceptance of discrimination against women in Kenyan
      society. Yet it is largely suffered in silence. In its new report,
      Kenya: Rape - the invisible crime, Amnesty International examines
      violence against women, particularly sexual violence and rape committed
      by both security officials and by private individuals. It explores how
      women subjected to violence are not adequately protected by the law in
      Kenya and why those who commit violence against women continue to
      operate with impunity.

      Victims of rape often face insurmountable obstacles in trying to bring
      the perpetrators to justice. Many women who have suffered rape or other
      forms of abuse are too intimidated by cultural attitudes and state
      inaction to seek redress. To do so can lead to hostility towards the
      victim from her family, the community and the police. Those who do seek
      justice are confronted by a system that ignored, denies and even
      condones violence against women and protects the perpetrators, whether
      they are state officials or private individuals.

      Discrimination against women in Kenya

      Kenya is a patriarchal society, where the husband in the head of the
      household and women often have little influence in decisions affecting
      their lives. This extends to sexual relations, where women are
      frequently unable to refuse to have sex with their husbands. In Kenya,
      customarily, women do not own property or the land they work, which
      causes them economic hardship and places them in positions of
      dependence. Each ethnic group in Kenya has its own identity, realized
      through its culture and traditions. Not all customs and traditions
      discriminate against women's human rights. Certain practices contribute
      towards promoting women's human rights. AI does not campaign against
      these cultural values for it is these very values that contribute to
      distinct and vibrant communities. However, AI is concerned that some
      forms of violence against women have become entrenched. For example,
      wife inheritance, bride price (in which a man's family pays the wife's
      family thereby giving men the idea they own their wife), forced marriage
      and female genital mutilation are institutionalized though culture. The
      state does not ensure women are protected against the acts of violence
      that these practices either embody or support. Forced marriage is
      customary in some communities. On the death of her husband, a woman is
      "inherited" by his brother or close relatives. Her consent to this new
      marriage or to sexual relations with her new "husband" is not sought.
      Gender-based violence not only exposes women to sexually transmitted
      diseases but also to the risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS.

      Sexual violence by law enforcement officials

      AI has received many allegations reported in Kenyan media of rape of
      women detainees by police officers. Torture, including rape of women by
      police, prison and other officials is reportedly widespread. Amnesty
      International believes that rape and sexual abuse of women in custody
      always constitutes torture and ill-treatment. The UN Special Rapporteur
      on Torture in his 1999 report on Kenya, chronicled at least 33 cases of
      torture committed against women by law enforcement officials. Torture is
      prohibited under Kenyan law, yet these violent acts are not investigated
      and perpetrators are not punished. Mary Muragwa, aged 45, from Bungoma
      District to AI she was raped by police officers who were looking for her
      husband, David Muragwa, a former teacher who was involved in local
      politics. Police visited her home in 1995 looking for her husband and
      not finding him, hit her and broke her arm, then carried her into the
      house where two of the officers raped her. She was detained without
      charge or trial at Bungoma police station for four months. She was
      released into house arrest for the next year. Doctors have told her she
      will not be able to have more children because of the injuries sustained
      as a result of this torture.

      Sexual violence by private individuals

      Women's organizations in Kenya agree that "domestic violence is the most
      commonly hidden form of violence, and wife beating is considered a
      private affair of the home." Many of the women's organizations and some
      of the victims told AI that some forms of domestic violence are
      perceived as "routine chastisement" and victims do not report it until
      it becomes extreme. Many women are not aware that forced sex in the home
      is rape and they will not mention this even when seeking medical
      attention for other injuries. Marital rape is not a recognized crime in
      Kenya nor is many other forms of domestic violence. Organizations told
      AI that reports of this crime to police are likely to be categorized not
      as rape but as the lesser offense of assault. Women avoid the police not
      only because they rightly expect the police to minimize or ignore
      domestic violence, but also because they fear they husbands can bribe
      police to withdraw the case. Peres, aged 34, from Nairobi, was
      reportedly beaten and raped by her husband in 1989 when he wanted to
      marry a second wife. She reported the beatings to the police but her
      husband allegedly paid the police to withdraw the case. She told AI when
      her husband comes home after she has been to the police, he beats her
      against and forces sex upon her, even when the children are present. It
      took her three days to obtain a P3 form, the medical form which must be
      filled out by police and then by a doctor who examines the victim. Many
      women reporting violence tell AI that P3 forms are not filled out by
      police nor made available to doctors so that investigations cannot
      become official.

      Lack of access to police and legal protection

      For an investigation to be started, a woman victim has to report the
      crime to the police. Most police officers regard violence within the
      home as a domestic matter and uphold discriminatory attitudes toward
      women. Special provisions for women has not been established in any
      police station in Kenya despite commitments made by both the Attorney
      General and the Police Commissioner in August 2000 to introduce "rape
      desks" at police stations and to make the police more responsive to
      gender-based crimes. Doctors interviewed by AI suggest that better
      access to a P3 form would enable the doctor to see the victim and record
      medical evidence as soon as possible. Without such evidence, a victim
      cannot prove she did not consent and therefore that she was raped. Many
      doctors are said to be reluctant to examine women victims or fill in a
      P3 form especially when a police officer is the perpetrator.

      Local organizations report that few victims of marital rape pursue a
      legal case against their husbands, mainly because of economic dependence
      on their husband, high legal costs, fear of losing custody of the
      children and of being ostracized by family and community, as well as
      lack of confidence in the police and judicial system to protect them.
      Access to justice particularly for marital rape is extremely difficult.
      It is rare for a case to reach the courts, and the perpetrator is more
      commonly charged with assault than rape. Often courts say that the woman
      provoked the violence and treat it lightly.

      There are very few avenues for redress. The government is not equipped
      to provide services to victims when they are most urgently needed. There
      is no governmental housing for women fleeing violence. A small number of
      women's organizations have established centers providing counseling or
      therapy, but their resources are offered only on a temporary basis. The
      Women's Rights Awareness Program(WRAP) now houses approximately 60 women
      and children in their shelter, and provides counseling, medical and
      legal aid, but the women can only stay there temporarily. The biggest
      problem is that because of women's economic disempowerment, many victims
      still return to their husbands.
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