By Irene Gaitirira
Published October 20, 2017
Authorities in Kenya should protect women from politically-instigated sexual violence during the repeat presidential poll.
“The patterns of election-related violence in Kenya suggest that there is a real threat of sexual violence in next week’s repeat election,” warns Agnes Odhiambo in a Human Rights Watch (HRW) statement to the media.
Saying “there was sexual violence against women and girls during the [post-August 8, 2017] election violence in Kenya”, Odhiambo says she interviewed more than 50 victims of the violence and witnesses in informal settlements of Mathare and Dandora in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi and in western Kenyan towns of Kisumu and Bungoma who “told me about rape, gang rape, attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching, and beatings on their genitals, including by members of security forces and militia groups and civilians.”
RELATED:Do Children Born Out of Rape Deserve Any Legal Protection?
“Given that the police themselves were the attackers in some cases, few reported these crimes,” Odhiambo contends. “Many were unable to go to health facilities because they were afraid of retaliation or stigma or did not know where to go.”
HRW argues that violence against women and girls, though less visible, has since the 1990s become integral to human rights abuse that includes killing and maiming of people and destruction of property during elections in Kenya.For instance, more than 1300 people were killed and 650000 others displaced during the violence that followed the general election in December 2007.
Saying “Kenyan authorities have failed rape survivors,” HRW appeals to the Government to “take measures during the upcoming elections to protect women against rape, including by government security agents. They should ensure that there are clear codes of conduct and disciplinary procedures in place, for example, with respect to police, and raise awareness and speak against sexual violence.”
“The patterns of election-related violence in Kenya suggest that there is a real threat of sexual violence in next week’s repeat election,” Odhiambo writes. “The Kenya government needs to be ready to take urgent measures to protect women and girls and to ensure that any women and girls assaulted have access to medical treatment and can report crimes and get help from the authorities.”
When rape happens, offenders should be investigated and prosecuted. Women have a right to vote without the fear of sexual violence.