Gender based violence against men needs to be addressed

This article looks at  gender based violence directed against men.  Some of the abuses here seem extreme as they are perpetrated in situations of conflict, however they are used to illustrate the nature of SGBV experienced by men. Picture source

By Millicent Agutu

It is a fact that daily there could be an act of violence against some men at a domestic level etc. In Kenya for example there are various media stories of men being battered by their wives, injured or even being killed. There are unconfirmed reports too showing that some men after buying investments for their families get killed by their  wives who seek  for freedom. It ends recommending that organizations should equip themselves to addressing the needs of such victims be it domestic or other forms of violence.

According to various institutional and media reports of Sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) perpetrated against men have increased. However, response to these reports has been limited, as existing evidence and programs have primarily focused on prevention and response to women and girl survivors of GBV. Communities and organizations are not equipped to deal with male survivors of sexual and gender violence because it undermines the ideals of social constructions of masculinity. Compared with females, male survivors lack access to reproductive health programs and are generally ignored in gender-based violence discourse. Yet, male survivors are known to suffer from numerous physical injuries and psychosocial disorders.

SGBV perpetrated against men and boys often go unreported by survivors due to socio-cultural factors associated with sexual assaults, including survivor shame, fear of retaliation by perpetrators and stigma by community members. In Kenya too during the post electoral violence period of 2008, there were many reports of violence against men in the form of forced circumcision, rapes and other humiliating experiences of a sexual nature. Before discussing the impact the victims go through, we look at the various forms of abuses against males that have been the subjects of various reports and media.

Rape – A number of different forms of male rape do take place. Victims may be forced to perform fellatio on their perpetrators or on one another; perpetrators may anally rape victims themselves, using objects, or force victims to rape fellow victims. At times victims are been ‘made to masturbate their culprits orally’ or rape each other in front of their perpetrators. At times too victims are  forced to commit acts of incest.  There is also the notion of ‘rape plus’, the ‘plus’ being HIV/AIDS, or another consequence of rape, which may have been the very purpose for the rape in the first place.

Enforced Sterilization – Enforced sterilization largely comprises castration and other forms of sexual mutilation. Castrations are performed through the use of crude means such as, forcing one victim to bite off another’s testicles, chopping them off or through pulling off the testicles.

Genital ViolenceThere are cases where victims private parts are hit or subjected to electric shocks. There are instances of forced circumcisions.

Enforced Nudity – The most common way of sexually humiliating men is forcing them to strip naked in public. There are reports of men being made to repeatedly undress and dress, undress and stand naked for periods of time and undress in public or forcing males to wear women underwears and bras; taking pictures and video taping them in explicit sexual positions.

Enforced Masturbation – There are also cases where groups of male detainees are forced to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped or being forced to masturbate their captors. The forced masturbation of the victim and the perpetrator is considered to be one of the most common forms of sexual violence experienced by men.

Therapists working with men who were sexually abused in childhood  report findings such as guilt and self-blame; low self-esteem and negative self-image, Problems with intimacy; sexual problems; compulsions;  or dysfunctions; substance abuse and depression and symptoms of post-traumatic Stress disorder. Societies should create ways and means of helping male victims of SGBV deal with their pain. However, Kenya as a society tends to have a few facilities to address problems of SGBV affecting men.

The article summarizes Lydia Maingi’s presentation on Addressing male gender based violence  presented at the First International Conference Against Gender Based Violence, Kenyatta University from 1st to 3rd August 2012.

Foreign affairs ministry ordered by speaker to rescue a trafficked victim in Saudi Arabia

Daily Nation, 4th October 2012

Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka has been directed to accompany Juja MP William Kabogo to Saudi Arabia to rescue a woman reported to be detained by her employer. Read (Kenyans in Saudi to get better working conditions)

National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende said it was the best thing to do to save Ms Rosemary Wariera Nduati, said to be undergoing serious maltreatment in the hands of her employer, in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Kabogo has been pursuing the matter on the floor of Parliament without success. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs only responded by saying it had not made progress to reach the woman.

However, Mr Kabogo put the ministry to shame after tabling in Parliament a recording of a conversation he said he had had with the woman on telephone.

The woman makes desperate cries in the conversation calling out for assistance.

Mr Kabogo said he managed to trace and reach the woman through his own efforts.

He told his colleagues in yesterday’s parliamentary sessions that he engaged a private detective who traced the girl after unsuccessfully trying to engage the ministry.

“I gave the ministry the recording but they have done nothing,” said an exasperated Kabogo. He said the girl cries in the conversation saying she only eats left overs and pleads to be rescued.

The Speaker granted the MP’s request to have the minister for Foreign Affairs accompany him to Jeddah to bring the girl back home.

The minister was directed to plan for, and make the trip with the MP within two weeks and report back to the House. The ministry will also cater for the MP’s travel expenses.

“I advise that you do so within 14 days from today, travel with the MP and come back to this House with a report,” ordered the House Speaker.

The minister was at the same time ordered to investigate and report back to Parliament within the same period allegations that some officers in the ministry were collecting money from gullible Kenyans and taking them to Saudi Arabia where some are reported to be ending up in slavery.

Mr Kabogo claimed that in the case of Ms Nduati, the ministry had all the information it required to take action, including details of the persons holding her, but had done nothing about it.

“There is a cartel making money through this thing in the ministry,” he said.

Mr Onyonka, responding to questions about the case, claimed the Kenyan ambassador in Jeddah was overwhelmed and lacked the capacity to follow up on the cases.

“The ambassador has really been working tirelessly; he has tried his best but these cases have been very many. It is hard to trace some cases,” he said.

He added that the ambassador was yet to get Ms Nduati’s travel documents from the Ministry of Immigration in Jeddah.

The assistant minister said he too had heard about “rumours” about corrupt officials in the ministry involved in the Saudi manpower export business, but could not confirm them.

“I have nothing substantive to qualify the allegations,” he said.

Last month, the assistant minister told Parliament the ministry was not aware that Ms Nduati was missing.

He said her employer’s telephone number provided by the Juja MP was passed on to the Embassy in Riyadh and it had tried on several occasions to reach the woman, but in vain.

He advised Ms Nduati’s next of kin to contact the recruitment agency that arranged for her to travel to Saudi Arabia to provide the ministry with alternative contacts of the employer, so that the ministry “could try and see whether it could reach her”.

There has been an increase in reports of harsh working conditions for domestic workers in Saudi Arabia as well as more cases of mistreatment.

Reports include slave-like conditions, torture and even death in the countries where Kenyans go to work.

However, the assistant minister defended the labour export saying not all Kenyans who go to the Middle East end up in cruel hands.

He added that househelps formed a very small fraction of Kenyans seeking employment in the Middle East.

“There are many Kenyans who are working peacefully and earning a decent living in many countries within the Arab World and, indeed, globally,” he said.

The minister said cases of maltreatment are unique “in the sense that they have been one-offs.”

In response to the numerous cases of cruelty, the Government suspended recruitment of domestic workers to the Middle East, specifically to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The ministry said this will be until it streamlines the recruitment of Kenyans to make sure that none is further harmed.

MPs have declared the cases human trafficking cases.

Kenya: New Book on the Difficulties faced by Sex Workers Out

East African Standard by Goro wa Kamau 18th August 2012

Title: A Walk at Midnight

Author: Catherine Wanjohi

Publisher: Life Bloom Services International 

Please visit this site to get in touch with the author

A Walk at Midnight is the story of the author’s journey with sex workers as she attempts to rehabilitate and inspire them with a new sense of dignity and wholesomeness. It is a journey driven by a need to give these abused women and girls a second chance in life.

It all begun quite dramatically in 2002 when the author, then a principal in a girls’ secondary school found a letter from a parent addressed to her on her desk. The parent who was HIV-positive wrote: “Teacher, you’ve been very kind to me and my girls and I am sorry I wasn’t able to attend the parents meeting last weekend … I have been sick … I don’t know how long I will live. Should I die soon, I will live my daughters with you.” Why would a dying woman have the confidence to write such a letter to her daughters’ school principal?

The letter was traumatising. Now Wanjohi understood why the youngest of the woman’s daughters had asked for permission to go to hospital in Nairobi and why she had attempted suicide when the permission was denied.

She arranged visit the ailing woman together with her daughter. After the visit, the author wondered how many of her students may be similarly affected by HIV/Aids only to discover there were several of them. The author responded by supporting the establishment of peer counselling clubs in her school. Catherine Gathoni, the girl who had just recently attempted suicide, became one of the most active participants in these clubs. She has told her story in the book Can Scars Become Stars?

The author learnt from the girls in the peer counselling clubs about the kind of homes most of her students came from — broken homes mostly headed by poor women for whom paying school fees was a struggle. In addition, those mothers who were infected with HIV/Aids had to deal with problems of social stigma. From then on any time a female parent came to see her she encouraged her to share what other story she might be holding back.

“The stories were often about negligent and irresponsible husbands, early marriages, poverty and single parenthood — voices of what really happened at home, in the family, in our society. Issues that could not be addressed in the narrow confines of the school compound.”

This realisation culminated in the author’s resignation from her school principal’s job. She founded Life Bloom Services International, an organisation through which she started working with sex workers.

Attempted suicide

At the start, it was a baptism of fire, a personally traumatising experience. A Walk at Midnight documents the lives of numerous abused women and girls who are forced to work on the streets of our cities and towns peddling their flesh in an effort to feed their children and often-poor families. Abused and stigmatised, most of these women have to be high on alcohol and drugs in order to numb their minds and conscience against the violence meted on them by their customers and law enforcement agencies.

The book is full of touching anecdotes from the lives of these abused women. Beyond the fear of the consequences of reckless, sometimes unprotected sex, their daily encounters with criminals and other shadowy characters that prowl the sex dens and the violence that accompanies their lives, these women are our ordinary sisters. Like all mothers, they want a better life for their children.

The author, a co-traveller with these women in their struggles, documents how her Life Bloom International Services works closely with Government agencies such as hospitals, prisons, the Provincial Administration, the Church and owners of bars and lodgings in Naivasha and other places where her organisation is active. She ensures the sex workers get access to medical and spiritual care as well as dignified treatment from such agencies as the police when they, inevitably, get in trouble. Through her organisation, the author teams up with well-wishers to train the women in leadership and counselling, trade and vocations, reproductive health, peace-building, basic and computer literacy among a range of other employable skills in a bid to give the sex workers a second chance in life

Acting Against Gender Violence: Kenyatta University GBV Conference 2012 Lessons

Milicent Agutu

The First International Gender Based Violence Conference took place at the Kenyatta University on the 1st to 3rd August 2012. The theme of the conference was “Creating safe spaces: A multi disciplinary approach to gender based violence. The conference was enriched by a confluence of policy makers, practitioners and academics who provided different perspectives on GBV.

Gender Based Violence as defined by UNESCO (1999) entails “acts likely to result into physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including such acts as coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life (UNESCO 1999 p.53)”. Violence significantly hinders the ability of individuals to fully participate in, and contribute to their communities – economically, politically, and socially. It is a human rights violation or abuse; public health challenge; and a barrier to civil, social and economic participation. GBV is also associated to limited access to education, adverse health outcomes, lost households productivity, reduced income and increased costs.

The main organizers of the conference were  AMWIK, Wangu Kanja Foundation, COVAW, CREAW, Menken, The Coexist Initiative, supported by United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, USAID, APHIA Kamili, APHIA PLUS, APHIA PLUS –Bonde, TROCAIRE Working for a Just World, Population Council, SWEDEN, Norad, Elion John AIDS Foundation, LVCT among the others. Kenyatta University the main organizer hosted the conference.

GBV was explored in the context of family, community and state. At the level of the family an examination was made on how the traditional gender roles, societal constructs and culture do promote GBV. At the state level it was felt that combating GBV both nationally and internationally needs to go in tandem with the need to alter the existing paradigms. The conference called for a recognition that GBV undermines not only the safety, and human rights of the millions of individuals who experience it, but also the public health, economic stability, the security of nations.

Insights

 

1. From the conference presentations it was clear that  GBV is enhanced by traditional structures that reinforce and sanction gender inequality. These structures may be socio-cultural, political, economic and legal and they vary from family to family, community to community and state to state. In many cases GBV was trivialized by the traditional society and people who are culprits of GBV never felt that it was an offense. It was hence considered normal and macho to mete violence against women by “beating the hell out of them.” In some cases women got used to being violated and thought that it was something normal. Hence the woman lived in terror and always expecting/ waiting to be punished for any trivial issue or at the man’s pleasure.

2. A common cultural practice that violates the dignity of the woman is the female genital mutilation (FGM) practiced by several societies. The effects are severe as FGM and are associated with both psychological and health problems. Women risk infections; including problems in their urinary system, obstetric and gynecological complications, abdominal pain and may also emit discharges. The circumcision destroys sexual function and precludes enjoyment of sexual relations. The worst consequence includes the fact that those undergoing FGM risk infertility, complications during child births or to the extreme deaths during delivery.

3. GBV happens within families and takes place either under the full view of the public or in closed doors. The main victims are mostly women and children. There is acceptance of GBV in the families/community and lack of acceptance of sensitive issues; e.g.  talking about  sex is regarded as a taboo. On the other hand common language has been used to promote gender violence. Most words that demean women are considered as normal in the family and society. Hence suffering within a family may go on for a lifetime and may never be reported. Observers too may never intervene to help stopping it. The failure to report spousal violence is attributed to the  lack of community support and absence of approppriate community structures to combat it. On the other hand, the fact that the public (neighbours or friends) does not intervene, shows the extent in which GBV is generally an accepted and condoned societal norm.

4. On the other hand there are no specific anti-GBV laws under which perpetrators can be charged. Crimes of this nature therefore are tried under various laws, such as the penal code, sexual offenses act, counter trafficking act etc. This has the danger that in the long run the victims may not get justice in cases of severe bodily harm and the culprits walk free to continue abusing others women. There is also a feeling that there is little political will to tackle gender based violence by enacting the pending bills.

5. Efforts to address the problem of GBV is also hampered by lack of credible data. Or where this data exists it has never been used by researchers. This means therefore that there is a great divide between the academia, practitioners and policy makers. This divide is bound to make the different approaches to addressing the problem weaker.  However when researchers will find data depositories from the practitioners, then they will be able to show the magnitude of the problem. Understanding the scale, zenith and  scope of the problem will help both the state and the practitioners develop effective strategies to address GBV.

There is also a misconception of the role played by GBV researchers. They tend to merge gender work with feminine activism. Lack of awareness and sensitization among the people and misinformation on Gender; gender being regarded as wholly a women’s issue thus disassociation by men counterparts. Also there is a tendency that students working on gender  are not encouraged to pursue internship with organizations tackling the problem of  GBV. Universities on the other hand have missed in their role which is to teach, research and community outreach. University research should aim to impact communities and help initiate change where it is needed.

6. The conference also looked into human rights concerns and how women (and men) access and obtain justice. It was acknowledged that there are tremendous improvements in the way women victims of GBV are safeguarded.  However the challenge of reporting cases and successful prosecution remains a major impediment despite the presence of laws addressing Violence Against Women.

7. The government on the other hand has not treated the enactment of the pending gender related bills with urgency.  Article 45(5) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 mandated parliament to enact legislation for the protection of the family unit. One of the initiatives that have been undertaken is to consolidate all the laws governing marriage. Currently, the Protection against Domestic Violence Bill 2012, The Marriage Bill 2012, The Matrimonial Property Bill 2012 have been drafted and forwarded to the Commission on the Implementation of Constitution (CIC). Domestic Violence Bill 2012 besides providing the legal framework with a law specifically addressing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), also empowers the courts to provide protection and orders in favor of victims of domestic violence. Areas for advocacy explored at the meeting were:- The P3 forms and the gazettement of the post rape care (PRC), Funding for GBV, Policy reforms to include a special police unit on gender, Funding and services towards psychosocial support and related post IPV attention

8. The Kenyan Constitution has made Gender and women a core focus of our Nation. The Bills of  Rights provides for equality and freedom from discrimination; thus women and men have right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres. Leadership and Integrity Bill – election of women to elective positions; 1/3 of women representatives in the parliament and all elective posts, The Legislature – Promotion of Marginalized Groups; women being part. Devolved Government – county executive committees; Stipulates that the numbers appointed under clause (2) (b) shall not exceed one-third of the county assembly, if the assembly has less than thirty members; or ten, if the assembly has thirty or more members. Land and Environment – Legislation on land; (iii)  that regulate the recognition and protection of matrimonial property and in particular the matrimonial home during and on the termination of marriage and (iv) protect the dependents of deceased person holding interests in any land, including the interest of spouses in actual occupation of land.

Combating GBV

1. There is a need to network with actors against GBV from all sectors of the society; practitioners, academia, policy makers and donors.

2. There is need to empower the women and the girls economically. The government could consider making a provision against GBV within the  National Budget. Women’s empowerment is critical to build a stable Nation and democratic societies.

3. Gender work should be guided by good research that borrows from multi-disciplinary perspectives? Researchers should also consider pursuing a multi-sectoral, dimensional and issues approaches; prevention of GBV, sexual issues, language, culture etc .

4. Create a gender based violence data base of researchers (men and women), , research on how constitution will help solve the  GBV challenge, research on how language escalates GBV, engagement of public/community in their issues, research on how technology can enhance or speed GBV (technology to collect and disseminate data).

5. Actors should be assisted to become socially innovative. This can be done through the formation of communities of practice that will enhance the emergence of best practice in combating the problem of GBV. Education should be a priority and it should reach all the structures of the society. Documentations will need to be made on the important dimensions of service such as advocacy, psycho-social assistance, economic assistance, legal assistance, safe havens etc. On the other hand it is important for organizations to share how they assist women and children victims from abusive family relationships by holistic services provision.

Call for Action

 

1. Ending gender-based violence will mean changing social cultural concepts about masculinity, and that process must actively engage men, whether they be policy makers, parents, spouses or young boys. Faith communities, corporations, institutions have a role to play in this process. The whole country should be educated to act against gender based violence.

2. The Government need to enact urgently the Marriage Bill 2012 and the Matrimonial Property Bill 2012, this will also help in defining gender based violence.

3. There should be interrogation of culture, traditions, attitudes and beliefs and lastly what kind of programs to put for different category of people.

 

4. There is need for regional mechanisms (for advocacy & lobby) that would see the government set space, policy and to do the implementation of programs to support women and girl child.

5. There is need for every one to watch their language as language can prevent or enhance GBV. Taking responsibility on language use, is therefore quite important.  Media  should also be careful to portray women as  language as sex symbols as they risk becoming platforms for GBV.

6. There is need to come up with simple programs of creating awareness and sensitization, social-economic and political empowerment of women and reinstatement/establishment of one stop centre.

 

Sexual Violence Suffered by Commercial Sex Workers in Kenya

Posted by East African Standard 15th August 2012

Disgusting. That is what many people think about commercial sex workers. Historically, the men who have kept these women’s business thriving over time are not condemned.

Although it takes two to tango, for the sex workers’ haters, the man has no problem.

The man is like a shadow; always there but no one remembers him.

So when two sex workers, let’s call them Catherine and Agnes, were beaten up and abused by a man who solicited their services, the two women suffered silently.

They knew no one could listen to them, let alone believe their explanation.

No dignity
Catherine was in the commercial sex work for ten years. Despite the danger involved such as being infected with HIV/Aids and the ultimate stigmatisation associated with it, she hang on – for the money.

Catherine, who is now a peer educator of commercial sex workers in Kilifi County’s Mtwapa area, says the trade was anything but dignifying; the workers were always unsure of what the next man posing as a customer would turn out to be.

“The danger of contracting the HIV virus was ever real because I would sometimes get customers who never wanted to use condoms,” says Catherine.

She notes that in the trade, one would receive many clients some of whom she had never seen before yet many others well known to her.

Some of these men, she says, often turned violent. “He beats you up claiming that you have stolen money from him or just refuses to pay. And if you argue, the public sides with the man because of the suspicion with which commercial sex workers are viewed,” she states. With this kind of attitude, the man makes a twilight woman his property and uses her as he wishes because “he has paid”.

Nowhere to turn
She says there is nowhere commercial sex workers can voice their concerns because even the police are never too keen to hear their stories.

Agnes, also a former commercial sex worker, says prostitution is a murky business. But her greatest worry was how her children – who saw her as the perfect mother – could think of her if they found out what she did for a living.

The single mother of three’s next priority worry was contracting HIV/Aids. But the need for money to take care of herself and the children always made her go back to the activity.

Agnes recounts how on three different occasions she was raped by clients, respectable people in the society but whose HIV status she did not know. The violence meted on her is a typical example of what sex workers experience in the hands of men.

“In one instance, I was raped in a guest house in Ganjoni, Mombasa, by a man who then left me inside the room without any money even though he had a car. I had to have sex with the watchman there so I could get the fare back to Mtwapa,” confesses Agnes, her eyes suddenly filled with tears.

Then she has had near-death experiences. For example, one day a client raped her in his car and demanded to have anal sex. She refused and started screaming, forcing him to speed away.

Fearing for her life, Agnes jumped out of the moving car and sustained injuries. She spent the night in the bush until the following day when she got help.

In all these instances, she says, she would go for post-exposure prophylaxis just to rid her of any sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Involving men
At long last when these two women could not take any more from their ‘respectable’ clients, they quit through the help of a programme run by Solidarity with Women in Distress (Solwodi) Coast.

Solwodi targets areas with high sex work activities like Mtwapa, Ukunda and Mombasa town and works with the sex workers as well as male partners who get intimate with these women.

According to the chief executive, Maureen Karisa, this enables them to get to those at higher risk of contracting HIV.

Karisa says men who engage commercial sex workers have been left out in the fight against HIV/Aids as focus is more on the women. To reach the men, the organisation has many services such as moonlight VCTs and provision of condoms in areas frequented by this group.

Some of these areas are brothels, mnazi dens and strip clubs.

Says Karisa: “Members hold group therapy sessions where they talk with each other in a language they understand. In the process, they also discuss other ideas such as how to access microfinance services.”

Such sessions helped Catherine and Agnes choose new paths to walk. Catherine now sells green groceries in Mtwapa while Agnes runs a local pub in the same locality.

Agnes can now pay her children’s school fees without a worry and is proud to tell them what she does for a living, she says. Both women say they now have steady partners as opposed to before when they would go for any man as long as there was money.

Baghazal Anisa, the Coast Provincial assistant director of medical services, says many people look down upon sex workers yet those who demand the services are normal people in the society.

Says Anisa: “Gender-based violence recovery centres are open to offer help to every Kenyan regardless of who they are.”

The despicable gender violence during the 2007 election crisis

Untold violence was metted on women and families during the Post elections violence of 2007.  A lady in this story narates how she was raped by a law enforcer and how young boys mutilated her private parts. The civil society and faith organizations have to work hard to ensure that these horrors are not ever repeated in Kenya.

By Daily Nation 4th August 2012

The grim TV footage shows Nancy Wanjiru, 37, knee-deep in the murky waters of the Nairobi River at Bondeni village in Huruma slums, begging reluctant neighbours and police to help save her husband. Early that morning of January 3, 2008, at around 9.30 am, a group of marauding youths had stormed their house, disrupted their breakfast and dragged her husband George Gachie out, viciously attacking him with machetes and finally dumping him in the river, perhaps thinking he was dead.

As he was being bundled into a Red Cross ambulance, Mrs Gachie fell to her knees, and a sympathetic crowd gathered around her. She raised her hands, cast her gaze to the sky and wept: “God, what did I do to deserve this?” It was the fifth day since the presidential results of the December 27, 2007 General Election had unleashed unprecedented violence around the country, and it was spreading like bushfire. Ethnic-based madness reigned. Neighbours turned against one another; husbands deserted their wives for belonging to the “wrong” tribe, and law keepers turned violators.

That morning, Mrs Gachie, a mother of three, remembers her family’s breakfast being rudely interrupted by a group of rowdy youths she knew well. They warned the family to vacate the area before the day’s end. “I opened the door because I knew these young men very well. Most of them were my sons’ friends, and I never guessed they had bad motives,” she recounted to the Sunday Nation events of that fateful day. But the gods of madness that had taken over the youths could not be appeased by appeals of friendship. They attacked Nancy Wanjiru, and when her husband rose to her defence, they turned their anger on him.

He ran out, hotly pursued by the bloodthirsty youths. They attacked him savagely with machetes before dumping him in the dirty waters of the Nairobi River, most likely believing they had killed him. Meanwhile, a badly shaken Mrs Gachie slipped out of the house with her children and was given refuge by a neighbour. All the while, her husband was being attacked in the distance. After a while, the youths moved on to other targets and a neighbour ventured out of her house to inform Mrs Gachie that her husband had been killed. She decided to venture out to look for help. Miraculously, the man survived the assault despite extensive injuries, perhaps a testament to his incredible fighting spirit that even allows him to laugh about the incident today.

“I know the people who attacked me very well. In fact I can almost remember very clearly the one who landed the last cut on my head that knocked me out. I re-live that image every time I close my eyes to sleep,” he said. Mr Gachie, who operated a small electronics repair shop in Huruma before the incident, says he has met his assailants many times since then, although they have never exchanged a word. Two young men were arrested in connection with the attack but were released two days later without any charge. “The OCS told us that he had been ordered to release them by people who were in a position to get him fired. He told us there was little he could do and urged us to wait for God’s justice,” he said.

The same youths, he said, looted goods worth Sh180,000 from their house and a small salon they operated. They have since learnt from friends that one of them still has their TV set and a mattress. But had that been the end of the story, he reckons that they would have had an easier time coming to terms with the single incident.

But the tale of multiple horrors that followed has been too much to bear. His wife was raped early the next morning by a police officer who was also his friend. To compound her tribulations, Nancy Wanjiru was sexually assaulted the same day by the same youths who had struck the blow that knocked out her husband the previous day. She said the first sexual assault occurred early in the morning. She said the officer met her in Pangani walking to Kenyatta National Hospital to visit her husband and offered her a lift. However, the officer first took her to the Pangani police quarters where he stayed. “He offered me tea and bread. I had not eaten anything the previous day. I did not have shoes and he gave me slippers belonging to his wife who was away at the time,” she said. But the acts of kindness masked an insidious motive. Her benefactor quickly turned into her tormentor. “He told me ‘you Kikuyus are very bad people,’” she recalled. And, with that statement, the enforcer of the law turned its violater. As the officer forced himself on her, Mrs Gachie says he warned her against screaming for help, saying she would not get any because it was “my police station”. A scar on her right thigh she said was inflicted on her by the officer is a constant physical reminder of the cruel act that she said has forever changed her perceptions of men.

“I was shocked by what he did. He was a friend and a police officer. He had betrayed both bonds by one cruel act. I went away without a word after he finished. I have never been comfortable around men since,” she said. Both Mr Gachie and his wife said the officer was well known to them. “We were not close as such, but we interacted on a number of occasions as he made his rounds here. We were not strangers to one another,” Mr Gachie said.  His wife reported the incident at Pangani police station under OB48/10/1/8 and returned to a camp that had been set up for the internally displaced persons near Moi Airbase in Eastleigh for some quiet reflection.

It was while there that the second assault happened. She said that some time in the evening a group of armed youths descended on the IDPs. People scattered in different directions, and a young man, who she said was among the group that had attacked her husband, pursed her back into the slums where she ran. He pinned her down and attempted to rape her. When she fought back, he pulled out a knife from his pocket and cut her private parts and left her bleeding. “This was a friend of my son doing this to me.”

Rape is often used as a weapon during conflict, and the post-election violence was no exception. Nancy Wanjiru’s plight is easily the story of thousands of women abused during the post-election period. The Commission of Inquiry on the Post-Election Violence (Cipev) headed by Justice Philip Waki put the number of sexual offences at over 3,000. However, various independent organisations contend that the figure could be much higher. Only a handful of victims — 31 in all — were willing to share their experiences with the commission. Eighty-two per cent of victims never reported their ordeal to the police, the commission learnt.

The low turnout was attributed to a number of factors including fear of retaliation, fear of the police, failure to identify their tormentors and the believe that nothing would be done. The Waki Commission heard that the worst cases of sexual abuse occurred in Nairobi’s Kibera and Mathare slums, where hundreds of women and young girls were gang-raped by marauding youths and law enforcers. Ironically, when then Police Commissioner Brigadier Hussein Ali appeared before the commission, he stated that the police force had no statistics on sexual crimes because the force had not deemed it necessary to document them. The Waki report concludes that this cavalier attitude towards sexual crimes by the police was due to the fact that its officers were perpetrators of some of the crimes.

“It is the commission’s view that the involvement of state security agents in the perpetration of sexual violence and the fear of incriminating themselves may partly explain why the police omitted data on sexual violence in the reports they presented to the commission,” the report says. National outrage greeted the commission’s take on the police force’s apathy towards sexual crimes. First Lady Lucy Kibaki intervened and called for an immediate investigation into the crimes.

Reluctantly, the police formed an all-female taskforce headed by then Eastern Provincial Criminal Investigations Department boss Lilian Kiamba soon after the scathing criticism. But three years down the line, the task force’s findings are yet to be made public, and not a single person has been convicted of a sex-related crime.

The 3,000 plus victims, like Nancy Wanjiru, are still awaiting elusive justice. “With the exception of State House and the Prime Minister’s office, there is no door I have not knocked on in this town,” Wanjiru told the Sunday Nation. She has made several visits to Pangani police station to follow up on investigations into her case.

In 2010, a senior officer turned her away with a statement that has become a metaphor for the impunity in the post-election violence era and arguably the greatest stumbling block towards finding justice for victims. “He told me that the post-election violence was over and people had moved on to other things. I got very demoralised and thought of giving up. But I have just found myself waking up and paying more visits to people who might help me.” She said she has sought help from senior police officials and several human rights groups and non-governmental organisations. However, her case is yet to move forward.

In April, she paid a visit to police spokesman Eric Kiraithe accompanied by Mr Aloysius Njoroge Irubu of the St Teresa’s Peace Building Initiative, which has been working to bring peace in Mathare slums. Mr Kiraithe promised to follow up on the case, but she has heard nothing from him. Meanwhile, Nancy Wanjiru lives her live fearfully in the shadows of her tormentors. She says the officer who raped her has been using close family relatives to try to convince her to drop the matter.

In April, she said she ran into the officer at a public rally and an altercation ensued. “He grabbed me by the neck and told me to stop rejecting his overtures,” she said. Inquiries by the Sunday Nation established that the officer who allegedly raped Nancy Wanjiru is still in service at a police station in Embakasi constituency, Nairobi.

Nancy Wanjiru speaks for many victims of the violence when she says that the pursuit of justice has been frustratingly slow and fruitless. “Some time I think the whole justice thing is just unattainable.” Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere said on Saturday that while he was not aware of Nancy Wanjiru Gachie’s case, police had done their best to investigate the complaints brought before them.

“What I have discovered is that there is a lot of witchhunt behind these allegations, but we have done our best to investigate nonetheless. We have even held identification parades in police stations, but most people failed to pinpoint their attackers,” he said. He said a number of people were prosecuted after the Waki task force completed its work although he could not give the exact figures at the time we called him because he was not in his office.

Commenting in In the Shadow of Death: My Trauma, my experience, a book documenting women’s experiences in the post-election violence, lawyer Moses Otsieno explains: “The Sexual Offences Act, though fundamental, has major weaknesses in the sense that it leaves out some key offences. It neither recognises that sexual abuses performed during a period of political chaos are genocidal or war crimes which, therefore, means that cases of this nature cannot be tried under this Act.”

Legal experts say various avenues of seeking redress will need to be explored to assist survivors of sexual violence, who hold scant evidence against their perpetrators. Mr Otsieno agrees: “The longer these cases take, the lesser the chances for justice to be done. With time, people forget details, memory fails, files and important documents may be misplaced.”

 

Read about the effects of colonialism on African women here

Sad ordeal for co-wives

Story by East African Standard 2nd August 2012

Drama unfolded at Mbero market in Kisumu after two women fought in public over their husband.  The second wife attacked her co-wife for ‘taking husband’s entire attention.’ She accused the husband of dumping her after luring her into marriage with promises that he would start her a business and that being the second wife, she will have all his love and attention.

“He cheated me that he would start me a business and will always be with me, but he did not fulfill his promise. I’m tired of spending cold nights alone,” she shouted. She said the two years she has been in marriage have been hell, with the man turning his back on her and focused all his attention to the first wife.

“I don’t know what he wants. I’m ready to give him everything, but he is not seen in the house. This is a disappointing,” she shouted. After marriage, the husband introduced her to the first wife and rented her a house in Nyalenda estate while the first wife was in Kondele, but the two wives had never visited each other.

The woman accused the man of not visiting her for a month and did not even send money to buy food for the children. She started looking for the husband to find out where he had disappeared to.

After a week’s search, she found out that the husband was always at the first wife’s business place at Mbero market in town and she decided to take action to shame the two. She approached the husband and the first wife and demanded from the co-wife why she had ‘grabbed’ the husband from her. “If you don’t know how to treat your husband, then he will always be with me here.  Shauri yako (It’s up to you),” said the co-wife.

A fight ensued but husband, instead of intervening, escaped and hid at a nearby hotel. Officers from the local Municipal council intervened and separated the two women.

 

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