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Justice system failing SGBV survivors


Raped 13 years ago during post-poll violence, survivor yet to get justice

Raped 13 years ago during post-poll violence, survivor yet to get justice

Monday July 13 2020

During the 2007/08 post-election violence, Ms Jacqueline Mutere, 53, was raped and from the ordeal, she conceived and gave birth to a baby girl.

Thirteen years later, she is yet to get justice.

Amid the chaos, Ms Mutere says her quest to get justice was frustrated from the onset. When she arrived at the police station to report the matter, she was told off with the officers saying they were more concerned with quelling the violence.

“I vowed never to go back to the police station again. I went to the hospital and faced the same fate. I was unable to get justice that I badly needed,” she said.

While sharing her story during a webinar titled Prosecution of Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Kenya organised by International Commission of Jurist (ICJ-Kenya), Mutere said she underwent a lot of pain and trauma for three years before she could overcome the ordeal.

“Many women were sexually violated with some being gang raped by civilians and police officers alike. Almost all of them opted not to report since they were not sure they would get justice,” she said.

She added that the pain, trauma, rejection and stigma from friends, relatives and neighbours was another reason that prevented the victims from reporting their rape ordeal thus shutting the doors on possible justice.

RECOVERY CENTRES

To ensure victims of SGBV get justice promptly, Ms Mutere said there should be a special court for sexual violence cases just like there for lands and corruption.

She said gender-based recovery centres need to be set up in all regions across the country to end SGBV in the country.

“These gender-based recovery centres ought to be one stop shops where victims and survivors of sexual violence can seek help. They should entail counselling, health and police services to the victims,” she said.

With the centres, she said collection and storage of evidence including specimens will be easier, making the investigative process more solid and accurate.

Her case is not unique but a representation of thousands of other women who have undergone sexual violation but have never got justice.

A recent demographic health survey shows that 45 per cent of women and girls face a form of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) annually.

The head of SGBV division at the Office of Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) Ms Jacqueline Njagi said for SGBV cases to be successful and get convictions, there has to adequate investigations.

Ms Njagi said the ODPP and the Police service are working to ensure in-depth investigation on SGBV matters.

She said lack of a special police unit trained to specifically handle sexual violence cases impacted the quality of investigations.

TRADITIONAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

“Lack of a special laboratory to deal with SGBV matters has been a major undoing in having intensive investigations. If investigation is shoddy it is normally hard to get a conviction in a case,” she said.

She added that evidence in sexual violence related cases need to be well packaged and preserved to avoid any tampering, noting that her office was working with the police and doctors on that.

Ms Njagi said the traditional justice system, where the victims and perpetrators negotiate through elders in some parts of the country, was the biggest challenge for her office.

“In such cases, witnesses tend to frustrate the cases after the negotiations with the perpetration upon the intervention of elders. The elders seem not to know that sexual violence cases should not be settled out court. However, it is said that it is happening,” she said.

High Court Judge Teresia Matheka said convictions are secured as a result of good investigations and strong evidence which she said, sometimes slack when it comes to such cases.

“Judiciary has tried to train some of its officers’ on how to handle SGBV cases. It has also put special children courts deal with cases like defilement, which has helped the victims to access justice expeditiously,” said Justice Matheka.

The judge added that the Judiciary has been steadfast in ensuring defilement, rape and other sexual violence matters are not settled out of court by elders. She challenged victims of sexual violence to seek compensation for the violation of their human rights by seeking redress in court.

Rights lawyer Christine Alai said statistics on SGBV in Kenya are shocking, terming it a human rights violation as it affects fundamental rights of women.

“SGBV denies women the right bodily integrity, right to human dignity and right to physical and psychological health,” said Ms Alai.

The lawyer said the State has an obligation to retrain its agencies from committing or cordoning acts that may result from commission of gender violence against women.

FIGHT FOR JUSTICE

“Where sexual violence has been committed on women, it is the obligation of the State to ensure there is in-depth investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators,” she said.

Ms Alai said the government must accord SGBV victims effective remedy by ensuring their social and economic well-being is catered for by providing them with legal, psychosocial support and mental health.

She regretted that SGBV was not being prioritised pointing to lack of crucial items like rape kits in most public hospitals and budgetary allocations.

“The government should also consider the establishment the office of a special rapporteur on SGBV, which will act as a link between the government, judiciary, police and other agencies involved in the fight for justice,” she said.

In December 2010, Mutere founded Grace Agenda, based in Nairobi, to support survivors of rape during the 2007/08 post-election violence.

Initially responding to the needs of children born from rape, she realised the mothers of these children had additional needs.

Through Grace Agenda, she has mobilised other survivors to advocate for reparations, participate in police vetting processes, and restore survivors’ dignity.