More than eight years since violence engulfed Kenya in the aftermath of the December 2007 election, survivors of rape and other sexual violence continue to experience significant physical and psychological trauma and socioeconomic hardship, worsened by the Kenyan government’s failure to provide medical care, psychosocial support, monetary compensation, and other redress.
The violence that erupted in Kenya between December 2007 and the end of February 2008 following a disputed presidential election included patterns of police use of excessive force against protestors as well as ethnic-based killings and reprisals by supporters aligned to both the ruling and opposition parties. It left at least 1,133 people dead and displaced more than 600,000 people. There was also widespread destruction and looting of homes and properties, expulsion of people from their homes, and maiming of individuals.
Widespread sexual violence against women and girls—and to a lesser extent, men and boys—was less visible than other abuses, but it was just as devastating.
Among them are an elderly father who was ordered to join in when a group of young men gang-raped his daughters. When he refused, they stripped him of his clothes and took turns raping him as well.
Joseph N., 83, spoke of how a group of 50 youths attacked his home and raped his two daughters.
The man, only identified as Joseph N., 83, spoke of how a group of 50 youths attacked his home and raped him and his two daughters and described their subsequent deaths:
They told me I am rich and I am taking away their wealth; living in their community. They beat me seriously with sticks and put me outside the house. They said they will teach me a lesson. They beat and raped both my daughters; so many of them.
Then they told me to rape my children. I refused. They hit me with a metal bar and some teeth came off. They pulled out some of my other teeth one by one. They broke my chin.
They said, “If you don’t want to do what we are telling you, you will be our wife.” Six boys took me aside and told me to undress. I refused. They beat me all over. My skull cracked a little. They did a very bad thing to me. They made me their wife; they made me a homosexual. They removed all my clothes and [left] with them.
They tied my feet and put me in a ditch. One of my girls got HIV from the rape. She died in June 2014. She met one of her rapists, went into shock, and never recovered.
The other one had been badly beaten and shot with a poisoned arrow. They amputated her leg but she kept ailing and died in May 2015.
Human Rights Watch 104-page report, “‘I Just Sit and Wait to Die’: Reparations for Survivors of Kenya’s 2007-2008 Post-Election Sexual Violence,” is based on interviews with 163 women and girls, nine male survivors, and witnesses of rape or other sexual violence in the post-election period.
Fatma W. with her 7-year old son born from rape. Atieno was 17 when she was gang raped at their home in Nairobi by three men who accused her family of hiding men from the ‘enemy tribe’. She stopped going to school after the rape. Fatma said her neighbors stigmatise her son because he was born from rape.
WairimuV., 65, was raped by a group of men at an IDP camp. Her husband blames her for the rape, and beats and verbally abuses her including in the presence of their children. She would like to leave her abusive husband but is worried that she will not be able to support herself. She has such severe pain in her leg, lower abdomen and back that she has to take pain killers daily; she also has vaginal bleeding and hypertension.
Kameme F. stands outside her house in a slum in Nairobi with her 7 year old son born from rape. Kamene stopped attending school after the rape. The registration office refused to issue her son with a birth certificate and demanded that Kamene provide the name of the father, who she does not know. Kamene is also raising her young sister whose rape was so violent it left her with a brain injury – she faints often and cannot use a toilet, feed herself, or go to school. Their family abandoned them when they learnt of the rapes.
Mwende T., 16 at the time, was raped in January 2008 by a neighbor who said he would help her to escape from marauding youth. When she went to the police after a few days to report the rape, a police officer said she was lying about being raped. Mwende had to move when the man who raped her threatened to kill her when she learnt she had gone to the police.
Lucy G., 46, from Nairobi was married with a good job, but her world fell apart when she was gang raped in December 2007. Lucy had a stroke in 2012, which has limited her ability to use her hands properly, walk, and work. She lives alone in a one-roomed house in a slum in Nairobi, and has no family support. She is often hungry and has no money to seek proper treatment.
Jaqueline Mutere, 48, walks on a rail line in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya, which was one of the hotspots of the post-election violence. She was raped in December 2007 by a man she knows. She is now raising her daughter born from the rape although she says she struggled to accept her. Jaqueline started Grace Agenda, a community-based organization, to support survivors of sexual violence particularly women struggling to raise children born from rape.
Atieno O., 36, was raped in December 2007 during the post-election violence. She has never told her husband about the rape but says he is suspicious and still questions whether she was sexually assaulted during the violence. She is afraid that if he finds out the truth he will chase her away and she would not be able to support their three children on her own.
Maua E., 53, at her relocated home in Rift Valley. Maua went to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital for treatment two days after being gang raped but the health workers ridiculed her and delayed treatment
Nafula K., 46, was gang raped together with three other women by four men in January 2008 while at an IDP camp. Her husband beats her, verbally abuses her, and refuses to sleep with her. Her family was also evicted from their home during the post-election violence. She says she wants to leave her abusive husband but wants the government to first build her a house so that she can have a place to go to.
Sinapei P., 62, stands at her husband’s grave at their home in Rift Valley region. When Sinapei’s husband found out that she had been raped, he refused to sleep with her, beat her, chased her away from home, brought other women home, and verbally abused her. He died in 2014 and she is very worried that her brothers-in-law will take away her land and home and she will have nowhere to live.
Regina W., 23, was raped in December 2007 at the age of 15. She now works with Grace Agenda, a community-based organization that supports survivors of sexual violence.
Wangechi N., 60, was raped by men she did not know in December 2007, after which she and her family were evicted from their home in Eldoret. She is pictured here in her vegetable garden in an area where some families expelled from their homes during the post-election violence bought land and rebuilt homes.
Cheptoo M., a blind woman, displays her walking cane. She was raped together with her younger sister by two General Service Unit officers at their home in a slum in Nairobi. Her husband became verbally abusive following the rape and eventually left her. Cheptoo is also living with HIV. She is raising her own child and four children of her sister who died in 2013, with no family support.
Photo Credits I 2015 Samer Muscati I Human Rights Watch
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