A 56-year-old widow from Obunga village in Kisumu County moved human rights investigators to tears as she narrated her horrifying sexual assault ordeal at the hands of police officers when chaos broke out following the disputed presidential election of 2017.
She recounted to Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) officials how she was repeatedly raped even after telling the officers that she was HIV positive.
“I pleaded with them not to harm me but they tore my lesso and abused me in the house I shared with my grandchildren,” she recalled.
Her attempts to resist the assault, she said, were met with threats from one of the officers who said he would use his baton if she refused to comply.
“I was afraid and I surrendered as my legs became weak from the beatings. As one officer raped me, the others waited in line for their turn. At that time, all I wished for was death,” she said with a trembling voice.
Harrowing tales of women in the hands of law enforcers abound as chilling revelations contained in a report released last year by KNCHR expose the ugly reality of sexual violence on women.
The report titled ‘Silhouettes of Brutality’ exposes police brutality as perpetrators of sexual violence especially during political unrest.
The report focuses on post-election violations largely experienced following the announcement of the first Presidential results on August 11, 2017, and the ensuing months prior to and after the re-run on October 26, 2017.
According to the report, sexual and gender-based violations during the 2017 election were perpetrated more by the police at 54 per cent compared to civilians at 45 per cent.
The report alleges that some security officers took advantage of the mayhem to indiscriminately raid homes and violated the survivors, most of who were not involved in the protests.
During the electioneering period, the government deployed 180,000 police officers from the National Police Services (NPS), Kenya Prisons Service, Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Services and National Youth Service (NYS) to provide security.
The Commission’s findings indicate that majority of those abused came from informal settlements where fierce protests were witnessed.
The report further contains findings of cases recorded in nine counties including Nairobi, Kisumu, Vihiga, Kakamega, Migori, Siaya, Busia, HomaBay and Bungoma. Machakos and Uasin Gishu counties with one case each.
Many survivors whose statements are recorded in the report pointed to security agents as the key violators. They described the attackers as having been dressed in security regalia. They could also describe AK47 guns and tear-gas canisters carried by their attackers.
Sexual and gender-based violations, according to the report, accounted for 25 per cent of all the human rights violations recorded.
The report reveals that the most affected were women at 96 per cent, with men at four per cent. Older persons were not spared with the eldest survivors being a 70-year-old woman and a 68-year-old man. Children were also subjected to the brutality.
KNCHR observes the highest cases were in August 2017, with rape accounting for over 71 per cent of cases recorded.
However, what was more shocking to the victims was the refusal by police officers to assist them when they reported cases of sexual violations. According to the report, the survivors would either be denied the opportunity to record statements, turned away or arrested and placed under custody.
KNCHR notes that 80 per cent of the survivors were unable to access timely medical care within 72 hours, including obtaining Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) to reduce the risk of HIV infection.
Sexual violence in the context of Kenyan elections can be traced to the 2007 Presidential election.
The report says the 2007 post-election violence led to the death of 1,133 people and displacement of about 600,000 people.
Officials indicate that at least 900 cases of sexual violence occurred.
During the 2007/08 post-election violence, the KNCHR compiled 260 cases of sexual violence from several parts of the country mainly in Rift Valley, Nairobi and Coastal regions
KNHCR notes that the national laws of proving sexual violence is based on evidential threshold of beyond reasonable doubt, in addition to the requirement of the physical evidence as adduced in the P3 and post-rape care forms.
This high evidence threshold, the commission says, has resulted in no prosecution in the over 900 cases of sexual violence perpetuated during the 2007/08 post-election violence.
Further, the commission opines that Election Offences Act 2016, does not expressly provide for sexual violence as an electoral offence.
The commission recommends that findings on both electoral and sexual violence should be taken up with the seriousness they deserve.
“There is need for the NPS and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) to embark on full investigations and prosecution of all cases of sexual violence,” reads the KNHCR report.
Sources at the commission said they have already handed over the report to the Interior Ministry, the National Assembly and Senate for action.
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