Evictions, insecurity and hard-to-reach police stations are some of the factors that expose women and girls from marginalised communities to sexual violence.
Ms Brenda Cheboi, a human rights activist from Sengwer in Elgeyo Marakwet County, says the recent Embombut Forest evictions have pushed families to unsafe makeshift homes that expose women and girls to sexual abuse.
“There is zero security in the temporary homes and women and children have no choice but to stay. Unfortunately, they end up being attacked by perpetrators who take advantage of the situation,” Ms Cheboi says.
“Sadly, the affected remain silent to avoid stigmatisation,” she adds.
Since the beginning of the year, Ms Cheboi says, she has handled at least three cases of rape.
The community settled in the area five years ago following ejection from their ancestral land in Embombut.
“Evictions dismantle the Ogiek social structures that guarded against sexual violence,” she says. “The structures involved moral codes observed by every member of the community especially boys and men relating to respect for women and girls, and included punitive measures attached to flouting the implicit rules.”
She, however, says regular awareness campaigns targeting community elders are needed to solidify support in upholding women and girls’ rights.
In the coastal area, the Waayu, a minority community, still adhere to their patriarchal order, which disadvantages women and girls. Remotely located police stations and courts expose community members to traditional remedies in pursuing litigation.
For instance, the nearest police station for Waayu in Sala Ward, Tana North Sub-county, is in Mandogo Town about 50 kilometres away, Dr Galgalo Ali, a Waayu elder and researcher says.
If they are to attend court hearings in Bura Town, they would travel another 50 kilometres, he adds, a situation Dr Galgalo finds prohibitive. “They would rather go the traditional way,” he says.
TRAUMA AND SHAME
He adds that the Waayu traditional justice systems dictate that a man who defiles a girl above 16 years must marry her.
If a man rapes a married women, his age-mates give him a thorough beating and he is fined at least 30 cows. He is then banished from the homestead of the assaulted.
Dr Ali, however, says incidents are rarely discussed in the open as trauma and shame is distressing.
Emergence of anti-rape activism and advocacy drives where the community live is slowly bringing change, he says.
“Two weeks ago, a woman was attacked in the forest while collecting firewood. She reported the matter. If this happened in pre-sensitisation days, she would have just kept it to herself.”
Ms Caroline Lekodoom, the founder of Girl-Child Network operating in Baringo County, said insecurity arising from recurrent cattle rustling curtails awareness activities. Among the Yiaku, a forest dwelling minority community in Mukogodo forest, Laikipia North sub-county, rigid traditional customs are challenging the fight against sexual violence.