Sexual violence by duty bearers and those in positions of authority has often been let to fizzle out once public outrage on the issue dies. Regrettably, indecent assault, sexual and gender based violence and related violations have not been adequately addressed. There are hundreds of cases of this nature that underscore how dire the situation is becoming. More must be done to protect women and girls from sexual violence, and to ensure that they are not made vulnerable in the hands of those in public leadership.
These violations have gone unaddressed despite the existence of strong legislative framework such as the Sexual Offences Act 2006 and other laws of Kenya which criminalize all forms of sexual violence. Moreover, Kenya has ratified and domesticated several regional and international human rights instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), The Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and Zero Tolerance to Violence against Women for the Great Lakes Region, among others which offer the requisite legal obligations of the State. These affirm the State’s responsibility to protect women and girls from sexual and gender based violence.
This responsibility has been affirmed and further emphasized by the commitment by the His Excellency the President Uhuru Kenyatta in his support for women’s rights when he launched the “He for She” campaign in Kenya on 24th November 2014 saying
“I am He For She because gender equality is not only a woman’s issue, it is a human rights issue that requires my participation. I as the President of Kenya, I commit to take action against all forms of violence against women and girls.”~ Uhuru Kenyatta 24/11/2014 [emphasis added]
Despite the existence of these legal and political commitments we have in the recent past witnessed a disturbing increase in reported incidences of sexual violence against women and girls in Kenya:
- In February this year, it was widely reported by the media that Juja Member of Parliament, Francis Waititu was allegedly suspected of sexually harassing a female member of his staff, including by sending her sexually offensive messages. The inaction by relevant offices against this MP is heavily accentuated by a disturbing and deafening silence on the issue.
- In the last couple of days, a Female Member of Parliament on official mission with the President of the Republic of Kenya reported that she had been subjected to indignifying and violent sexual advances from a fellow male Member of Parliament. Again, there has been resounding silence and inaction on the matter!
- The Members of Parliament have not spared the female law enforcement officers either. A traffic police woman in Nakuru was allegedly assaulted by a member of parliament resulting in actual bodily harm and there is still significant silence on the same.
These are just but a few alarming reports that have made their way to the media. Increasingly, there has been a worrying trend of rape and other sexual violence being meted against women and girls in Kenya, with little or no action taken to apprehend and prosecute the offenders and safeguard the rights of women and girls. Most unsettling is that on Saturday the 21st March 2015, a helpless mother of two allegedly came face to face with this monster of sexual violence occasioned against her by the Imenti Central Member of Parliament. The sexual violations and acts of indecent assault included:-
- The Member of Parliament with the help of his personal assistant administering a substance with intent to subdue her;
- Trespassing on her privacy by instructing his private medical practitioner to forcefully conduct an HIV test against her will;
- Physically assaultingher, causing actual bodily harm; and
- Engaged in the heinous act of rape,
- To make matters worse the alleged perpetrator has embarked on a mission to intimidate and compromise the survivor, her family and possible witnesses in the case.
- To exacerbate the matter. The MP continues to receive preferential treatment while in custody. i.e. having dinner with the top investigating officers, not spent a single night in custody, driven around the city in a convoy of police vehicle supposedly other tight security ( Daily Nation, Thursday, March 26, 2015 Page 4)
Unfortunately, this is a familiar story for a number of women who have been the innocent victims of sexual violence in Kenya. Many women continue to cry for justice without the prospects of ever receiving any. A woman’s dignity and bodily integrity is priceless! Obtaining justice for the indignifying violations remains a mirage for many victims! Kenya is slowly and painfully etching out a reputation of being an unsafe country for women and girls with rapists and defilers walking scott-free. It is abominable that members of Parliament who are mandated with passing laws that safeguard our rights and better our societies would behave in such a DISHONORABLE manner!
The prevalent culture of the dehumanization of women as sexual objects for men’s gratification along with the bizarre myth, attitudes and assumptions that men cannot control their sexual desires must be fervently abhorred.
We DECLARE THAT ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!! to All acts of violence against women and girls and STATE that full responsibility and action to ensure their safety and protection of their human rights is upheld!! In so doing, we uphold our humanity with the hope that we can create a better world for us ALL – where we treat each other with dignity and respect, regardless of age, class, sex, ethnic or dress as provided in article 27 of our Constitution.
The Government of Kenya must live up to its role and discharge its obligations under national, regional and international law and effectively protect women and girls from sexual and gender based violence. It is imperative that the Government ensures that our women and girls are safe in every part of this Country.
We therefore demand that:-
- The Inspector General of Police swiftly moves to comprehensively, independently and objectively investigate these allegations and make recommendations for prosecution of the perpetrators;
- The Speakers of the National Assembly- Parliament and Senate uphold integrity through development of a code of conduct, including a sexual harassment and gender based violence Policy regulating the conduct amongst the members of the national assembly, staff and officials. Any suspected member of the National Assembly should be suspended from their duties until they are cleared of the allegations by a court of law.
- The JudiciaryOperationalizes the Sexual Offenders Register and make it accessible
- The Judiciary further establishes a Sexual Gender Based Violence Court within the judicial system to provide privacy and expedite the cases on sexual violence in the shortest time possible in a safe environment.
- The Director of Public Prosecution to establish a gender based violence department within his office that will facilitate expedition of cases of crimes of sexual violence ensuring the observance of the rule of law.
- The Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, to facilitate full implementation and mainstreaming of all sexual and gender based violence policies and frameworks across all Government bodies at both the national and county levels.
- We call upon the Commission on Administrative Justice, Public Service Commission, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, to expedite their role in promoting national values and principles by ensuring all public officials, accused of sexual crimes relinquish their positions until their cases are heard and determined. Any person whose name appears in the sexual offenders register must not be cleared for any public office, whether appointive or elective. .
We call for the Media to conduct comprehensive awareness, sensitization and empowerment campaigns to help prevent the gross human rights violations on women. This should include information on how to report cases, where to report cases and every person’s role in protecting women from these brutal attacks by callous individuals.
We also urge the public to be vigilant and break the culture of silence around these atrocities by reporting all cases of sexual defilement, abuse and violence of women, girls, children within families, schools, public spaces and the community at large.
May justice be served! Pamoja Tutetee Haki!
- Women’s Empowerment Link (WEL)
- Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)-
- FIDA Kenya
- Center for Rights Education and Awareness(CREAW)
- AKILI DADA.
- Maendeleo ya Wanawake
- African Women Child Features(AWCFS)
- International Rescue Committee
- Action Aid International Kenya
- Girl Child Network
- Association of Media Women In Kenya (AMWIK)
- Association of Professional Women with Disabilities
- Youth Agenda