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Tough law fails to deter rapists as crime soars

Sunday April 22 2018

gender-based violence

Mombasa women protest increasing cases of gender-based violence at Kibarani, on February 28, 2017. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

LEOPOLD OBI
By LEOPOLD OBI
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Last week’s incident in which a gang of serial rapists stabbed and killed a 40-year-old man who was out to rescue his widowed sister-in-law from their grip has raised alarm over increase in sexual attacks targeting women and children.

The sword-wielding gang of five conducted a door-to-door operation last Tuesday night, knocking on widows’ doors at a village in Ndhiwa, Homa Bay County.

They then forced their way into the house of a 48-year-old widow, who screamed for help.

The commotion attracted Lucas Otieno who was unfortunately overpowered and murdered by the criminals.

“They kicked my door, gained entry and one of them attacked and raped me. I cried but when my brother in-law came, they stabbed him,” the victim reported.

LYNCH
Agnes Adhiambo, a resident, would have been the gang’s next victim but she narrowly escaped after refusing to respond when they knocked on her door.

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A suspected member of the gang was later lynched by irate locals while the rest are still roaming free.

“We have established that the assailants knocked doors of many houses inhabited by widows before they got the unfortunate woman,” Jared Ware, the area chief, said.

Ndhiwa OCPD Nixon Makokha said they are pursuing the rapists.

“Medical reports from Homa Bay County Referral Hospital have revealed that the woman was raped,” Mr Makokha said, adding that police had opened investigations.

Two days earlier, a Standard Three pupil was gang raped and killed in Nyatwoni, South Mugirango, in Kisii County.

LAW

Shortly after, a man was lynched on suspicion of being part of the gang that allegedly committed the crime.

The body of the nine-year-old pupil was recovered a day after she disappeared.

While Kenya has one of the most progressive and punitive laws on sexual harassments and assaults, statistics point to an awkward rise of rape cases across the country right under the watchful eyes of law enforcers, community and religious leaders.

Astonishingly, the rapists seem to particularly target underage girls, elderly women and people with disabilities, whom they consider easy prey.

They have even changed tack, choosing to execute their criminal activities in armed and organised gangs rather than as individuals.

According to the programmes officer for the Gender-based Violence Recovery Centre at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu, Ms Angelica Wagwa, the number of rape survivors aged above 60 is on the rise.

DEFILEMENT
In the past two months, the facility has treated several cases of gang rape, she said.

“50 per cent are elderly women, many of who report to hospital long after evidence of sexual assault has been destroyed.

"At least 10 defilement and rape cases are reported weekly at the facility, a trend that is worrying,” Ms Wagwa said.

Data from Transform Empowerment for Action, an advocacy group based in Kisumu, estimates that at least 1,208 children may have been defiled in the lakeside county in the last 15 months alone.

Last month, a 10-year-old boy was sodomised by three students in Habaswein, Wajir County.

Habaswein OCPD Benjamin Kimwele confirmed the incident, saying the boy’s parent discovered a change in his behaviour and how he walks.

SODOMY
Upon inquiry, the boy said three other boys sodomised him on his way to school between February 8 and March 23.

The boys are reported to have committed the act in an abandoned house.

The boy’s father took him to hospital and the doctor confirmed that he had been sexually assaulted.

On January 24, this year, a 28-year-old man was arrested for defiling a girl, 7, at a Kisii Town suburb.

Peter Ongaro, an Orthopedic specialist at Oasis Hospital in Kisii Town, is said to have lured the minor into his house on Sunday and defiled her.

In another incident involving a minor, police in Gatundu arrested a fellow cop suspected to have defiled a minor inside police cells.

GANG RAPE
The officer, according to a report by Gatundu OCS Joshua Nyasimu, was accused of defiling a 15-year-old girl.

Mr Nyasimu reported that the minor had complained that a police constable “had carnal knowledge of her against her will after removing her from cells to do some cleaning within the station”.

However, the incident was not reported until a day later when the girl approached a police officer manning the report office and told him of her ordeal.

Less than a month ago, a 71-year-old Mary Lenjo (not her real name) was gang-raped for hours by unknown assailants at her home in Lushangonyi village, Wundanyi. 

Neighbours found the old woman outside her house, unconscious and in a critical condition several hours later.

The grandmother passed away five days later while receiving treatment at the hospital. To date, no one has been arrested over the incident.

NEIGHBOUR
In Wajir County, police are investigating a similar incident where a 15-year-old girl in Habaswein Sub-County was gang-raped and left in critical condition by unknown people.

A six-year-old girl was also defiled in Garissa several days ago by a culprit whom the police identified as her neighbour.

Fredrick Ogweno, Executive Director of the Inter-Regional Peace Network, links the rising rape cases to drug abuse.

He also adds that the society must also change their approach to rape and defilement.

“We must accept that this thing is happening despite the stringent laws in place, therefore the community must stand up because the culprits live amongst them and they are known to them,” Mr Ogweno says.

“In several instances you’ll find that these culprits are known to victim’s parents, or their rape tendencies are known to the villagers who either shield them or choose to resolve the cases traditionally instead of reporting them,” he continued, adding that the community must come out and work with security agents.

COMPENSATION
In North Eastern Kenya, the increase in rape cases has been blamed on ‘maslaha’, a traditional dispute resolution mechanism, where elders negotiate on an amount to be paid to victims’ families.

Weak government institutions have been blamed for encouraging ‘maslaha’ as courts take years to deliver justice.

National Council for Persons with Disabilities Executive Director Mohammed Gabbow points out that children, elderly and people with disability are targeted by rapists because they cannot defend themselves.

The increasing cases of rape, he says, could also be as a result of poor child upbringing as parents prioritise their jobs over their children’s welfare.

“Parenting is becoming a big problem in the country. Children have become economic orphans as parents go to work leaving them unattended to. As a result, they grow up on their own without guidance,” he noted.

JUSTICE
Mr Gabbow urged courts to expedite rape cases and give maximum penalties to the perpetrators.

Another expert, Dr Griffins Manguro of the International Centre for Reproductive Health, says that “rape is an abnormal expression of power.

"Rapists’ rape people because they feel they have power over their victims and the victims are vulnerable. That is why people rape grandmothers.”

He mentioned mental health illness, alcohol and other drugs as some of the things that influence rapists.

Statistics from the Coast Gender Based Violence Centre indicate that 80 per cent of rape victims in Mombasa are below the age of 15.