Bill Aims to Improve Government Coordination, Hasten Care and Justice for People Raped in Kenya

Publication Date

Bill Aims to Improve Government Coordination, Hasten Care and Justice for People Raped in Kenya

Publication Date

Reporting Rape: Part Seven in a Global Series

KIBERA, KENYA – Laughter is in the air in Bombolulu, one of more than 10 villages in Kibera, the most populous slum in East Africa. Celebrating the new year, children scream as they chase each other, their clothes dirty from the numerous falls in the dust.

Girls are singing and skipping, and boys tease them as they dart by. They brush past clothes drying on the lines that hang along narrow corridors of houses built from corrugated iron sheets and chipped cement blocks.

Knight, 6, says she was playing near her house with the other children when her neighbor called to her. She says that David Omwoke, 46, whom she refers to as “Baba Wiki,” asked her to take some onions that he had bought to his house in exchange for some candy.

“He said that if I take them, he would give me a sweet,” says Knight, who spoke to Global Press Institute with her mother’s permission.

But Knight says that when she took the groceries to his house, Omwoke shut the door behind her and forced her to have sex with him.

“He grabbed me and told me not to tell anyone,” she says.

She hangs her head. Her eyes look glassy.

Knight says he then raped her not once, but twice.

Her mother, who asked to be referred to as Mama Knight, says she is still in shock at what happened. The 27-year-old mother had gone to the market to work and also to buy a new pair of shoes for Knight. But when she got home to bathe her daughter, she noticed something unusual about her.

“I noticed a change in my daughter,” she says, startled. “I called some neighbors to have a look at her and help me figure it out. She looked like a woman who had just given birth. Her private parts were completely open, and there was sperm.”

One neighbor, Margaret Muhonja, says the commotion drew her outside. A group of women were standing outside Knight’s home. Muhonja walked inside to see what was going on and says she was shocked when she examined Knight.

“I shouted and said someone has slept with your daughter,” she says. “And it was definitely an adult who slept with her.”

Muhonja says she instructed Knight’s mom to talk to her daughter calmly to find out what happened.

“‘If you have an open relationship with your daughter, she will tell you,’ I told Mama Knight,” Muhonja says.

After a few minutes, they emerged from the house. Muhonja says that she helped encourage Knight, who was afraid that she would be reprimanded harshly if she told her mother what had happened. Together, they finally persuaded Knight to tell them.

Knight whispered, “Baba Wiki.” Shocked, both Knight’s mother and Muhonja asked Knight to repeat herself. She whispered the same name again and told them what had happened.

Her whisper rippled out into the community, igniting rage in some and stirring sympathy in others.


“Women beat him up,” Muhonja says. “Men were staring and sympathizing with him. His clothes were torn. He was humiliated. Some people almost lynched him, but a Good Samaritan saved him.”

Police arrested Omwoke on the charge of rape. He has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Comprehensive statistics on rape in Kenya are lacking, with nongovernmental organizations keeping their own records and the government serving a mostly referral role. Following a rape, people are encouraged to seek immediate medical attention and report their cases to the police. But a long wait to see the government doctor for an official examination and months to years in court drag out the judicial process. Advocates in the government have been working on a new bill to improve government coordination in order to overcome these hurdles.

Kenya’s 2006 Sexual Offences Act defines rape as intentional and unlawful penetration with genital organs that the other person does not consent to or whose consent is obtained through force, threats or intimidation. Having sex with a child – anyone under 18 – is considered defilement.

In Kenya, comprehensive statistics on rape are scarce. Individual nongovernmental organizations keep their own statistics, but regular consolidation of these statistics by the government is rare.

Rape reports increased by 8 percent nationally from 2009 to 2010, according to Kenya Police’s 2010 annual crime report. Defilement reports also increased by 19 percent nationally.

Grace Wangechi, executive director of Nairobi Women’s Hospital, says that a lack of complete and comprehensive statistics makes it difficult to tell whether this was because of increased awareness when it comes to reporting or an increase in incidents.

Girls and women accounted for nearly 80 percent of the 2,900 sexual violence reports to the Gender Violence Recovery Centre, a nonprofit, charitable trust of Nairobi Women’s Hospital, according to its 2010-2011 annual report. Neighbors were the type of perpetrator most frequently identified, accounting for 18 percent of the reported cases.  

Every district in Kenya has a District Gender and Social Development Office under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development to manage cases of gender-based violence, among other gender and children’s rights concerns. But the offices serve more as referral organs and don’t keep statistics on sexual and gender-based violence.

Naomi Omari, the district gender and social development officer in the district that serves Kibera, says she refers any cases she receives to the specific nongovernmental organizations that handle the issue at hand or to other government institutions, such as the police or hospitals. She says the office doesn’t have any statistics on gender-based violence cases in the Kibera area.

“Apart from the referral services when I have clients, I refer them to those [nongovernmental] organizations,” she says. “Any other details, it is wrong for me to cheat you that I have any other relationship. I am not in control per se.”

The Centre for Rights Education and Awareness, a nongovernmental, nonpartisan organization that promotes women’s rights, runs a satellite office in Kibera. It handles sexual and gender-based violence cases, such as rape, defilement and indecent exposure.

Cecilia Chebon, a legal officer at the center, says that it established an office in Kibera after realizing the lack of access to justice. The organization provides free legal services.

“I follow up the case from whatever level the case is and ensure that all the procedures are followed,” Chebon says.

Chebon outlines the ideal procedure that should be followed after a sexual assault.

First, someone who is raped should go to the hospital, she says. There, doctors can treat them and administer medication to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

People who are raped must receive post-exposure prophylaxis, a short-term antiretroviral treatment, within 72 hours of the incident for it to be effective in preventing HIV infection. Doctors also examine the person and collect evidence.

Second, Chebon says the person  should then go to record their statements at their local police stations. There is a gender-based violence desk set up at all police stations, but Chebon says there are no officers at them to respond.

“It is just a desk with no one to assist you,” she says.

Charles Owino, deputy spokesman for Kenya Police, says he doesn’t think this is true. He says that any complaints would lead to the punishment of the officer commanding the station or police division. To verify these allegations, Owino says he will personally conduct an impromptu visit to Kilimani Police Station, which handles frequent cases from Kibera and has received the most complaints.

The police are required to fill out a P3 abstract form that serves as evidence in court. People who are raped must also take this form to the government doctor in order to receive an official examination to prove that the crime occurred.

But Chebon says that this is a major drawback in the reporting system in Kenya, as there is only one government doctor to examine people who were raped or assaulted in Nairobi, which has a population of several million people.

“Unfortunately, we only have one doctor who handles the P3 forms in Nairobi,” she says. “All assault and rape cases have to go through him. He is known as Dr. Kamau.”

The doctor has a cutoff of 30 people whom he can see in a day – from all of Nairobi. Chebon says that people need to wake up and head to his office at either 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. to ensure that they are among the 30 he will see that day.

Dr. Zephaniah Mwangi Kamau was not available for comment, despite several attempts to contact him. But at his office, some  people said they’d been waiting for three days to see him.

It’s noon, and Grace Mbaire Thara, 54, says she has been waiting in Kamau’s office since 6 a.m. It was her second day waiting to be seen.

“The government should add at least one doctor because it is overwhelming for one doctor to attend to everyone,” says Kimondo Thara, her husband.  

Kajiru Nduba, says it is also his second day waiting in the doctor’s office. He waited from 4 a.m. until noon the day before and arrived at 5 a.m. today.

“Even when you call the doctor, he doesn’t answer,” Nduba says. “And he doesn’t have the courtesy to return the call.”

Once someone in Nairobi manages to see Kamau to obtain their medical statements, that person is required to return to the police station so that police can compile all their reports.

“They need to have the treatment notes, statements, P3 form ready for the file to be complete and for the police to arrest the accused,” Chebon says. “And that is when the case is booked in court, where we follow up the cases and ensure the case goes on well in court.”

This reporting process takes a minimum of three weeks, from the time the incident occurs to when the case goes to court. It can also take up to three or four months to report a rape.

“But for the case to be concluded in court, it can drag for years,” Chebon says. “The justice system, the court, is also another hurdle.”

Omwoke is currently in Industrial Area Remand Prison awaiting trial. Mama Knight has sought legal aid from Child Rights International Network, a nongovernmental organization, with the help of Judy Atieno, a community health worker.

In the event of a conviction, Omwokes punishment could range from 10 years to life in prison for rape and five years to life in prison for attempted rape, according to the Sexual Offences Act. Punishment for defilement ranges from 15 years to life in prison, depending on the age of the person assaulted.

But Muhonja is concerned that justice may not prevail.

“He comes from a rich family,” she says of Omwoke. “He was put on a bail of 200,000 shillings [$2,400]. And all it’ll take is for them to provide title deeds or log books, and he will be out on bail.”

Title deeds proving ownership of property and vehicle registration can be used to attain bail in Kenya.

Omwoke’s wife, who did not want to disclose her name for fear of reprimand from her family and the community, was in her rural home when she received the news that her husband had been arrested and charged with rape. She arrived back in the city to find her husband in police custody awaiting trial.

Visibly troubled, she wore a long, pale face and a suit that engulfed her slim frame. She says her husband is the sole breadwinner of the family, which has four children in school.

“For the duration that I have lived with my husband, I have never seen anything odd,” she says. “He would send school fees for the children when he gets money.”

She says she is unemployed.

“What will I do with the children?” she asks. “And they need to go back to school.”

She negated the charges against Omwoke.

“I was shocked to hear that he had raped a child,” she says bitterly. “And it’s a lie! It’s a lie! I don’t believe it.”

She says her husband also denies raping Knight. He says he was nowhere near the neighborhood when the alleged rape happened.

But witnesses say he was in town. Atieno says irate neighbors beat and stripped Omwoke after Knight told her mom that he had raped her. They then whisked him away to local authorities.

“He was taken to the chief’s camp,” she says. “But you know he is not allowed to be there for more than 24 hours without being charged. That is when he was taken to Kilimani Police Station.”

Advocates in the government are working to hasten the justice process in Kenya.

Millie Odhiambo is a nominated member of the Kenyan Parliament and helped found The CRADLE, a nonprofit organization that advocates for children’s rights. Odhiambo has raised in Parliament the obstacle of having only one police doctor in Nairobi. But she says this has yet to be addressed by the Ministry of Health, which promised last year to provide more personnel.

She notes a lack of integrated services among the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development and Kenya Police. Odhiambo says that civil society and parliamentarians are currently advocating for certain measures to resolve the void in the government’s delivery of services.

“One of those is a one-stop center,” Odhiambo says. “The Kenyatta National Hospital is working with CRADLE, Liverpool VCT and CREAW, where the NGOs provide the legal and psychosocial support. And the government provides the health services and police support in one place.”

This is all part of the Victims Protection Bill, which Odhiambo is scheduled to introduce in Parliament for debate. The bill aims to speed up the process by requiring police to file a report within 24 hours of the person reporting a rape and ensuring those people the right to immediate medical and psychosocial treatment and financial support.

The bill also ensures that the person who was assaulted is kept informed throughout the process. It even penalizes any employer who castigates an employee for taking time off to attend court or meetings with police.

Knight is still undergoing treatment and is due for a third follow-up appointment. Her condition has been deteriorating. She passes stools when she urinates and can’t sit down without having a bowel movement.

Mama Knight says she is grateful for the free medical treatment her daughter has received. Beyond that, the shy and soft-spoken mother doesn’t say much. She just holds her daughter and gazes on.

But their neighbors are vocal that justice must be served.

“We want justice for children,” Atieno says.