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COPS PUT ON THE SPOT

Bribery, fear, shame blamed for slow progress on gender violence war

Officers and local administrators accept bribes from the accused to derail or stop investigations

In Summary

• Participants accused the police of engaging in "kangaroo business" whenever such cases are reported

• Catherine Mukoya says she no longer believes in the justice system after she was failed twice

Gender-based violence survivor and advocate Catherine Mukoya during an interview with the Star on Mukuru kwa Njenga estate on Wednesday
Gender-based violence survivor and advocate Catherine Mukoya during an interview with the Star on Mukuru kwa Njenga estate on Wednesday
Image: DOUGLAS OKIDDY

Fear, embarrassment, slow police response, lack of proper information on where to get help and corruption are hampering the war on gender violence.

A lobby on Wednesday said many victims choose to keep mum for one reason or the other. This came out during a sensitisation campaign in Nairobi's Mukuru kwa Njenga slums.

Residents, mostly women, were informed of what to do should they be assaulted.

 
 

The campaign was led by Young Women's Campaign Against AIDS. It encouraged women to seek medical services first before reporting to the police. 

The women accused the police of engaging in "kangaroo business" whenever such cases are reported. They said officers and local administrators accept bribes from the accused to derail or stop investigations.

Catherine Mukoya, a mother of three, said she no longer believes in the justice system after she was failed twice.

Her 15-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted by a friend and they reported to the police. Mukoya said the culprit's family bribed the authorities to dismiss the case. Immediately thereafter, the officers began accusing her daughter of engaging in prostitution, she said.

"He told the boy and his family to go home because he did not see any substantial case. My daughter and I were left at the station helpless," Mukoya added.

 The gender-based violence advocate says she was faced with a similar ordeal after her husband assaulted her last year.

They had been married for 23 years. Mukoya said the violence began at the onset of the marriage. She stayed put hoping things would get better. It reached a point she couldn't tolerate any longer. She reported it to the area chief who directed her to the police.

 
 

 "My husband was later arrested and he stayed in a police cell for two days before being let out on Sh20,000 cash bail," she said.

She was told a court date would be set in September and she would be notified. By January, however, she had yet to receive any communication.

"My husband had moved out of our home and when I went to inquire on the status of the case, I was told it had been dismissed because he had not produced himself in court," she said.

"When I tried enquiring why I had not been informed or asked, the lady at the station told me to drop the case because it would not go anywhere."

So discouraged was the gender advocate that she told the Star she finds it hard to advise other victims to seek help from the police.

"They will not help us so there is no need to go to the police," she said. 

The lobby group, however, urged victims not to keep quiet. Men were urged not to be ashamed.

"Men hardly report violence because of primitive cultures and fear of embarrassment. Not speaking out leads to a rise in suicide cases because of depression," the area chief said.

"Gender violence has no border. It cuts across the board and we cannot ignore it."

Morris Ouko, programme officer at Young Women Campaign Against AIDS, said awareness levels are low. He said most victims fail to report because they do not have the proper information on how to get assistance — where to go and whom to go to for what services. 

Ouko called for proper coordination among sector players. He blamed weak liaison structures for hindering advocacy efforts and corruption among officers for discouraging victims.

"Some officers will dismiss cases after they receive bribes from the accused persons," he said.  

"You also find that police response to some of the cases successfully reported is very slow. That ends up frustrating the efforts of the victims to get justice."

(Edited by F'Orieny)