“We can work together for a better world with men and women of goodwill, those who radiate the intrinsic goodness of humankind.” Wangari Maathai
The story is told of a 13 year old girl named Clara who is defiled by her biological father, Mr. Kofa, in Ganda village somewhere in Kenya.
On the fateful night, Clara’s mother Kadzo is invited to attend a wedding ceremony in the neighborhood. She prepares herself and goes out at dusk, leaving her husband in the bedroom while Clara is washing utensils in the kitchen.
After a while, Mr. Kofa asks his daughter for a glass of water, which she serves and takes to the table-room. However, he insists that she serves him in the bedroom instead.
When Clara takes the water to her father in the bedroom, he grabs a hold of her and defiles her while brandishing a knife and threatening her with death.
The following morning, a dejected Clara narrates the incident to her mother who has just returned from the overnight festivities. Her mother, with the help of her friends from their Inuka Womens’ Group, attempt to seek justice for Clara.
Unfortunately they encounter numerous bottlenecks in the pursuit of justice, from nonchalant police officers who destroy evidence of the crime, to an area chief who demands for a bribe for the case to be ‘killed.’
Eventually Clara gets justice from the courts, but she does so at a huge cost. Together with the women of Inuka Womens’ Group, they challenge the authorities and push past gateposts to get Mr. Kofa behind bars.
While Clara’s story has a happy ending, it opens up a Pandora’s Box for thousands of victims of sexual abuse throughout the country.
Statistics from a 2015 Nation Newsplex Project, in partnership with the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) show that approximately 69,376 rape incidents were reported in 2014.
This translates to approximately 190 cases every day, or if you may, seven incidents reported every hour. Unfortunately, this only signifies the number of reported cases. Thousands of cases still go unreported.
Clara’s story is a play-act created by AMWIK to engage and enlighten communities about their Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) which includes the process of seeking justice after abuse, how to protect evidence after an assault incident and punishment for sex offenders.
The project is being carried out in collaboration with The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) and targets youth, parents and teachers in Nairobi’s slums and informal settlements.
Through this project, AMWIK has been able to raise awareness on the accessibility to justice for victims, as well as preventive measures. Through discussions with the community, it is evident that most people do not even know what to do in case they fall victim to sexual violence.
It will take more
The Sexual Offences Act stipulates different sentences for criminals who commit sexual crimes including rape, defilement and other sexual offences.
In the case of Clara, her father would be convicted to not less than 20 years in prison for defilement, and not less than 10 years because he is a family member of Clara’s.
However, evidence from the ground shows that provisions of the Act are rarely, if ever, implemented. Sadly, sexual offenders continue to roam free knowing well that they are still safe in a community that is indifferent to the plight of its victims.
Ultimately one question arises from every radio-listening session done by AMWIK on the topic of sexual abuse: What will break the vicious cycle?
True, funds and resources are available to implement programmes in communities where sexual abuse is rampant. The law of the land is also clear on what convictions await perpetrators of sexual violence and in fact some culprits have even received appalling jail sentences for their criminal offences.
AMWIK and other organizations are at the forefront of civic engagement with communities to raise awareness on the vice and available channels for retribution.
However, what will it take to permanently break the cycle?
From where I sit, everything that needs to be done has already been done. What remains is to employ goodwill at a personal level. I feel that if every person takes individual responsibility to break the cycle, it will only take a short while before we see radical change.
If every parent makes a conscious effort to fiercely protect his/her child from the voracious stares of an abuser; if every law officer in position of authority makes it a personal goal to put every offender behind bars; if every organization mandated with civic education makes it a personal priority to reach every person in the village…
If the law courts can hasten the process of convicting criminals, if everyone can be aware of the immediate steps to take after being abused; if every person can take personal precaution to protect themselves from risky situations…if the entire community we live in can face situations with humaneness and kindness before acting…I am certain that the rate of sexual violence will decline drastically.
But this will only be possible through goodwill.