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23.9.2021 : 19:42 : +0200

Battering, Rape, and Lethal Violence: A Baseline of Information on Physical Threats against Women in Nairobi

Almost one-half of Kenyan women have experienced physical or sexual violence, including forced sexual initiation. Much of the violence is barely acknowledged, let alone investigated and prosecuted. Extreme and even fatal acts of violence—targeting poor women in particular—are common enough to be considered unremarkable, a non-issue for the media, the political class, the police, and by extension, the Kenyan state.

A new Small Arms Survey Working Paper by Claire Mc Evoy, entitled Battering, Rape, and Lethal Violence: A Baseline of Information on Physical Threats against Women in Nairobi, documents what is known about the three types of violence, examining the prevalence, perpetrators, and the circumstances surrounding each.

The report reveals a pattern of attacks that range from socially accepted disciplining—such as slapping—of women by their intimate partners, to extreme domestic violence using crude weapons, rape, gang rape, and sadistic methods of sexual and non-sexual torture, resulting in mutilation or violent deaths. Many Kenyans have yet to acknowledge and discuss these issues, and open dialogue about the prevalence and extreme nature of violence targeting women is almost non-existent.

Based on dozens of interviews with survivors, medical and legal professionals, police, social workers, and officials, as well as analysis of available data, the findings of Battering, Rape, and Lethal Violence include:

    • The number of reported rapes in Nairobi is rising, and women in informal settlements are especially at risk.
    • Nairobi’s women are most likely to be battered, raped, and murdered by husbands and intimate partners.
    • Impunity is widespread, with reports of police accepting bribes from rapists and even murderers to bungle cases.
    • Girls are extremely vulnerable to sexual violence, with more cases of female children being treated for rape than adults. Some of the victims are babies and toddlers.
    • Gang rape—including politically motivated attacks, such as those that involved multiple assailants during the 2007–08 post-election violence—is alarmingly prevalent. 
    • Advocacy work on gender-based violence in Kenya focuses for the most part on sexual violence, and to a lesser extent on battering, with lethal violence completely neglected.

    Battering, Rape, and Lethal Violence makes a number of recommendations, including on the need for comprehensive data collection and the setting up of a holistic medical, psycho-social, justice and legal system to respond to the violence, and urgent police reforms.




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