Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Team on sexual offences wants post election gender violence investigated

By FELISTA WANGARI fwangari@ke.nationmedia.com

A taskforce has called for investigations into perpetrators of sexual and gender based violence during the 2008 post election violence.

The Human Rights Centre has also recommended that the International Crimes Act of 2008 be used to hold the perpetrators to account.

It blamed lack of a strong legal framework as the loophole that has helped the perpetrators elude prosecution.

However, this is set to change if proposals contained in a report by the Task Force on the Implementation of the Sexual Offences Act are implemented.

The recommendations are outlined in the report launched on Wednesday by the task force led by retired Lady Justice Effie Owuor.

The 2009 health and demographic survey indicated that women bear the brunt of sexual violence. One in every five women aged 15 to 49 has experienced sexual violence and in most cases at the hands of their spouses.

Former Attorney General

Former Attorney General Amos Wako set up the taskforce in 2007, shortly after the Sexual Offences Act came into force, to review the Act and ensure its full implementation.

“There is a troubling discrepancy between what is supposed to happen and the reality on the ground,” said taskforce chair Lady Justice Effie Owuor during the launch of the report.

The report shows that despite having various laws to deal with sexual violence, there are still obstacles in achieving justice for the victims. Proposals contained in the report seek to seal the existing gaps in the Act, which deny sexual violence victims justice.

The report findings indicate that police officers lack the skills to record proper statements. Forensic evidence is also often destroyed during collection, storage and transportation, thus interfering with the determining of the case.

This is especially the case in rural areas, where evidence has to be transported over long distances to the Government Chemist for analysis.

The report also puts the Government Chemist in the spotlight, because under-staffing results in a backlog of cases. In addition, there are difficulties generating DNA profiles of the victim and the offender from evidence that was not properly collected or handled.

Witnesses also fail to turn up as they are unsure of their safety during investigations and trial. Moreover, lack of standardised forensic examination and lack of a budget for post rape care supplies has also interfered with the implementation of the Act.

The report proposes maintaining a database for dangerous sexual offenders with a view to monitoring them when they are released from jail terms.

The Teachers Service Commission is also expected to open an internal register of sexual offenders.