Rape victims take Kenya government to court

5,000 women and girls were reportedly raped, gang raped or subjected to forced pregnancies during ethnic violence sparked by the disputed 2007 presidential election

5,000 women and girls were reportedly raped, gang raped or subjected to forced pregnancies during ethnic violence sparked by the disputed 2007 presidential election

NAIROBI – Four civil rights lobby groups took the Kenya government to court on Tuesday seeking compensation for 5,000 women and girls reportedly raped, gang raped or subjected to forced pregnancies during ethnic violence sparked by disputed presidential election seven years ago.

"The government violated the rights of victims to life since they had prior information of violence during the 2007 election but failed to take measures to stop the violence," Kenya National Commission on Human Rights Chief Executive Officer Patricia Nyaundi told the court.

The lobby groups accuse the government of failing to train and prepare police to protect civilians from sexual violence.

They also claim that in the aftermath of the violence, police refused to document and investigate claims of sexual violence, leading to obstruction of justice.

Nyaundi said it was disheartening when she had come across women who had their genitals raptured.

She accused the government of discriminating against victims of sexual violence despite evidence that they were abused by security officers.

The activist told the court that those who had perpetrated such crimes against vulnerable women were walking free.

"It is unfortunate that the government has only considered compensating and relocating the internally displaced persons when survivors of sexual and gender based violence continue to suffer in silence without any medical support," Nyaundi added.

The hearing continues Wednesday.

Violence erupted on December 30, 2007, shortly after Kenya's Electoral Commission declared Mwai Kibaki the winner of the presidential election.

His main political rival Raila Odinga claimed the election had been rigged.

In a swift dramatic turn of events, ethnic violence of unprecedented scale erupted in the country, leaving more than thirteen hundred people killed and hundreds of homes burnt down.

Thousands of families were displaced before the violence was contained after nearly two months – thanks to former U.N. secretary general Kofi Anan who proposed the formation of a grand coalition government comprising Kibaki as president and Odinga as premier.

-Traumatized-

Several of the rape victims attended the court hearing and one of them agreed to talk to AA.

"I was going to but supper when I met three men," she recalled the fateful night of December 30, 2007.

"They knocked me down. They raped me," added the 55-year-old woman.

"They starte[d] beating me. From there I did know what [time] they finished raping me," she recalled.

"It was very pain[ful]…My mind was so bad. I was shaking."

Kenya law prevents the press from disclosing the names of sexually violated girls and women. 

Coalition on Violence Against Women Executive Director Joan Nyanyuki, a medical doctor, said most rape victims live with psychological scars.

"What happens to a sexual violence victim is first the physical trauma. But while that may heal the psychological impact is long lasting," she told AA.

"The trauma of having been sexually violated, especially during conflict and violence, actually affects women and girls, even men," added the activist.

"So you find that when the physically signs may go away, the scars may go away, the impact in terms of the mental processing functions, the emotions, the judgment, even the outlook towards life changes completely," Nyanyuki lamented.

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