Sexual abuse and exploitation especially defilement and rape continues to be one of the most life-threatening acts committed in Mukuru kwa Njenga slum. Young girls and boys as well as women continue to face the challenge of being raped or sodomized in their daily life as they seek food, water or even in search of a place to relief themselves.
According to information from the chief’s camp of Mukuru kwa Njenga, nearly a month does not go by without receiving two cases of defilement and one attempted defilement case of girls aged between 10-15 years. Shockingly, this defilement are done by a family relative either step-father, uncle or someone close to the family. Many of whom have been accused of this are male family relatives aged between 35 and 50 years.
Young boys too have been sodomized by their colleagues, neighbors and their uncles. Out of the five cases of sodomy reported since December last year to May this year, four were done by colleagues to the victim while one was committed by the victim’s uncle.
Furthermore, hardly four months passes on without rape/marital rape case of woman aged between 20-35 years being reported. On many occasions, the act is committed by former husband to the woman or during evictions which occur during the night.
Even though the Kenyan Laws provides for the child rights and protection according to Penal Code (Cap.63 Laws of Kenya) against any form of sexual abuse; the rights enshrined in the Law is only a word which has not yet achieved its meaning. Many rape victims and especially for the slums continue to suffer after being denied justice due to flawed investigations from the administration or from the family members who decide to hide the matter from the authorities.
Poverty, congested houses, cultural practices, and lack of cooperation from the arm of the government to pursue the matter continue to provide environment for the crime to thrive. According to Peter Sila, chief of Mukuru kwa Njenga slum, rape cases are rampant in his area of jurisdiction among women and girls though lately boys have become victims also.
Chief Sila notes that, out of all the cases many fail to see the light of the day due lack of cooperation from the victim’s family. Only one case proceeds to court and which on many incidents is thrown out after the complainant fails to appear in court.
“You will find woman abused by her husband-Marital rape, but when you propose to take the matter to court she refuses. Being economically disfranchised and the husband being the only bread winner, they tolerate since the family will suffer if she takes him to court”.
“Sadly, families of young girls who have been defiled by family relatives or other people decide to settle the case outside court. By the time we get to know of the offence, already the family has been paid to keep quiet and even taken the victim to other areas. To others it is a taboo to take family relative to court even on sexual abuse case. Rituals are performed to cleanse the offense. With such challenges even with good will to seek justice for the victim, you can’t present the case in court as it will be thrown out on basis of lack of evidence”, he argues.
Despite the many challenges, gender defenders from various Non-governmental organizations continue to fight for the weak in the society. By organizing educational seminars, they create awareness among the residents on what to do in the event of rape/defilement case.
“We encourage the residents to report to any health facility within 72 hours after rape/defilement and not to take bath before reporting. We also encourage forming of small youth clubs in schools around here so that they can educate others on what to do if such thing happens. Defilement cases have good money; we urge government and the family of the victim not to allow money as justice for the victim. Not jailing the offender of defilement will encourage the vice,” notes Marry Nyambura, gender defender-Mukuru kwa Njenga.
It estimated that one in every three women has been subjected to sexual abuse with many cases arising from the slums, according Family Health Option Kenya 2010 report. Many victims have not received justice while others have been left with permanent trauma and stigma from the public. Poor policies to guard slum people as they are regarded as burden, exclusion from the master plan and lack of good infrastructure continue to undermine the fight against sexual abuse.
Mukuru kwa Njenga slum represents many other places which are facing the same problem of sexual abuse. For this vice to end concerted effort is needed.