To Women Living in Slums, The Risk of Rape is Ever Present. 30/5/2016

Published by DAILYNATION

Most victims of rape, defilement, and as sodomy, which is on the rise, do not know what to do.

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‘It happened on a Saturday morning at a “club”
in the Sinai slum where I had spent the night with my lover,”  the
woman begins telling her story to the  support group.

The
following day he left very early and left me sleeping. I woke up at
around 5am and was leaving the lodging when I was accosted by a man.

 “Come here! I have been looking for a chance to talk to you for a long time but you have been snubbing me,” he barked.

I tried to look at his face but he kept avoiding my eyes.

“I’ve
been looking at you but you don’t look at me. You don’t give me the
time of day. Today I have got you,” a second man said, emerging from the
shadows.

Before I knew it, the first man grabbed my hands from behind and started pushing me into a room.

“What is it?” I shouted. In response, one of them punched me in the face.

“Shut
up or we will kill you,” the one gripping my hands said, whipping out a
knife. “Will you be quiet or not?” Then he asked, “Are you going to
undress or do we have to tear your clothes off.”

With the knife brushing against my throat, I had no choice but to co-operate, so I undressed.

For
about an hour they sexually abused me. It was the most painful
experience I had ever had. I switched off my mind, trying to block the
pain. When they were done and had left, I picked myself up and walked
out in a daze to my house in the same slum.

I boiled water and used a warm compress on my private parts, which were sore. I then washed up.

My husband wanted to know what had happened but I didn’t know what to tell him.

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DOUBLE TRAGEDY

For
the next week I survived on painkillers. I narrated my ordeal to only
one of my close female friends. When she asked whether I had sought
medical attention, I lied that I had, but deep inside I knew I couldn’t.
As a married woman, I was ashamed and blamed myself for my predicament.

The following month, I missed my periods. I was worried since I had been using protection with my lover.

When
I missed my periods for the second month, I went to a local clinic for a
pregnancy test, which came back positive. It was a conception from the
rape, and there was no way I was going to keep this baby, I told myself.
I didn’t tell the doctor as much, but I told him I wanted to get rid of
the pregnancy.

He told me to return with
Sh2,000. Armed with Sh2,000 I had borrowed, I went back,  and he gave me
a tablet, which he said would cause me stomach pains, followed by
bleeding, then all would be well.

After taking
the tablet I had very painful cramps, but there was no bleeding. I went
back the following day and he gave me another tablet, which had the same
effect. When I returned a third time, he said there was nothing more he
could do, and suggested I go to a more advanced medical facility for an
“aspiration abortion”.

But upon hearing of
failed attempts to abort, my friend told me to stop. “If it has refused
to come out, I think you should leave it, lest it kill you,” she said.

With
time, the pregnancy started to show. By then, the tension that had been
building up between me and my husband, who knew the pregnancy was not
his, reached breaking point. When I was four months pregnant, we parted
ways.  

At the Makadara Maternity Unit where I
attended antenatal clinic, an HIV-test was not mandatory. Nor was it a
rule at Pumwani Maternity Hospital where I delivered.

When my son was born, naturally, I breastfed him. But while he was chubby and healthy-looking I was getting slimmer by the day. 

Then,
when he was about a year and three months, he started getting sickly.
He was always running a fever, accompanied by diarrhoea. By the time he
was one-and-a-half years, it had become so severe that he developed
anaemia, so he was referred to the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).

After
the third day at KNH, they stopped giving my baby medicine. During the
ward rounds, the doctors and nurses would just come and talk in legal
jargon around his cot and move on to the next bed.  I was curious, so
one morning when they left my son’s file on the headboard of his cot, I
read it.

When I saw that he was HIV-positive, I
broke out in a cold sweat. I could not breathe for a few minutes. So
that’s why they had stopped treating my son and told me to go home and
feed both of us well. I got such a severe headache that I was admitted
to the adults’ ward.

We had been at KNH for a
week, and my son had been discharged that morning. However, I sneaked
out of the hospital, with no intention of returning.

SELF RELIANCE SKILLS

Back home, I did not talk to anybody for two days. My neighbours thought I had lost the baby so they came to condole with me. 

On
the third day I told them that I had come to fetch something and would
return for the baby. But after a night of mourning and pondering, I came
back to my senses and returned to the hospital for my baby.

But
once back home I slid into a depression. Two months later, I came down
with tuberculosis and diarrhoea. I went to Mbagathi Hospital, I was
confirmed to be  HIV-positive.

I was given a
referral letter to get medicine from the Coptic Hospital for both of us,
and took my baby to Lea Toto, a community-based outreach programme that
helps HIV-positive  children

I talked to my
pastor, who had helped pay our hospital bills and had been catering for
our needs, and he helped me buy my HIV medicine, which cost Sh1,000. The
baby got his Septrin free.

My son is now in
Standard  Seven. He is healthy and doing very well. I have since given
birth to another child, who is HIV-negative.

I
have joined an HIV support group, which  helps the more vulnerable in
society. We inform the area’s residents about what to do in the event of
rape or defilement.

The groups, Africa Youth
Trust, funded by ActionAid, and Wangu Kanja Foundation facilitate
survivors of sexual violence’s access to medical, psychological, and
legal aid, have also taught us self-reliance skills. The groups have
also taught us how to make peanut butter, and I also sell bags made from
recycled paper bags at Marikiti Market.

As
women who have suffered the same fate, we look out for cases of sexual
abuse so that we can advise and make follow-ups on behalf of victims.

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FYI 

Barriers to tackling rape

Estimates indicate that one in three women has been raped, with most cases in the slums

Most victims don’t know what to do or where to go for help

Victims rarely ever get justice because the perpetrators pay off their families

The government has done little to improve security in the slums

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SEEKING JUSTICE

Getting justice for victims no easy task 

A
report by Medecins San Frontières (MSF), an NGO that treats victims of
sexual violence, contains disturbing figures of victims of sexual
violence in Nairobi’s informal settlements.

MSF’s case reference report for 2015 indicates that new consultations and admission at its clinics reached 2,421.

It
estimated that one in every three women has been sexually abused, with
many cases taking place in the slums, according to the Family Health
Option Kenya 2010 report.

Many victims do not
get justice while others are left with permanent trauma and stigma.
Inadequate policies to guard slum residents — they are regarded as a 
burden — exclusion from the city’s master plan and lack of good
infrastructure continue to undermine the fight against sexual abuse.

As
a result of increased sexual abuse and gender violence in their
neighbourhood, 55 women in the Mukuru slums have formed Mukuru Women
Action Group to help the victims.

Chairperson
Hellen Okello says they move around the slums teaching women what to do
if one falls victim to sexual abuse and educate victims on their legal
rights.

She says most victims of rape, defilement, and as sodomy, which is on the rise, do not know what to do.

“We
formed the group following an escalation in rape, defilement and gender
violence cases. Some of our members are rape victims. We educate women
and girls on what to do to avoid falling victim, what to do when
something like that happens, and ensure the victims get justice by doing
case follow-ups,” she explains.

FORGOTTEN LAND

“We
meet with women from Mukuru kwa Njenga and Mukuru kwa Ruben — said to
have the highest sex abuse related crimes), and give them tips like not
to take a bath, and to report to a health facility within 72 hours of
the incident,” she says.

The New ActionAid Chief Executive Officer Adriano Campolina, who visited the slum last month, applauded their efforts.

“It
is very encouraging to see the efforts the women’s groups are putting
to restore dignity by pursuing justice for the victims in the slums,” he
said.

In a report titled Insecurity and
Indignity: Women’s experiences in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya human
rights group Amnesty International said women and girls in slums were
afraid to visit the communal latrines for fear of being raped.

Young
girls and boys, as well as women, continue to face the challenge of
being raped or sodomised in their daily life as they seek food, water or
even in search of a place to relieve themselves.

Amnesty
criticised the lack of policing in informal settlements and the
government’s failure to enforce planning laws and regulations.

The
organisation’s East Africa researcher, Mr Godfrey Odongo, says,” There
is a huge gap between what the government commits to do, and what is
going on in the slums every day. Kenya’s national policies recognise the
rights to sanitation and there are laws and standards in place.
However, because of decades of failure to recognise slums and informal
settlements, planning laws and regulations are not enforced in these
areas.”

The report highlights sexual abuse and
exploitation, especially defilement and rape, which continue to be among
the most life-threatening crimes in Mukuru kwa Njenga slum.

Meanwhile
information from the Wangu Kanja Foundation indicates that it receives
reports about three cases of gender violence, mostly sexual abuse, every
week. Young boys are also sodomised, and it is currently handling two
cases that occurred this year.

But Ms Hellen
Okello, chair of the Mukuru Women Action Group, says ignorance and want 
hinder their activism. “Poverty and injudiciousness make a mockery of
the justice system because the perpetrators always win since they often
settle the matter by paying off relatives of the victims. And lack of
cooperation from the government to pursue the matter continues to
provide an environment for the crime to thrive”.

Amnesty
International has found that many sexual violence victims, especially
from the slums, continue to suffer after being denied justice due to
flawed investigations by the administration, or from the family members,
who refuse to cooperate with the authorities.

“We
urge the government and the families of the victims not to accept money
as compensation. Failure to have the offender imprisoned only
encourages the vice.”

Mr Peter Sila, the chief
of Mukuru kwa Njenga slum, notes that many cases fail to see the light
of the day due lack of cooperation by the victims’ families. Only a few
cases make it to court, but most are thrown out after the complainant
fails to appear in court. 

About 60 per cent of Nairobi’s two million people live in slums, with limited access to water and sanitation.