‘Justice for Liz’, saw over 1.3 million people worldwide sign a petition seeking justice for a school girl who was gang-raped and her attackers punished by grass cutting.
Her attackers grabbed the 16 year old as she was making her way home after her grand-father’s funeral. They beat her, raped her and then threw her into a pit latrine. Liz now sits in a wheel chair as her back was broken in the brutal attack; either from the beating or being thrown into the pit. All this happened in June.
Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has called for immediate action on this case from the National Council for the Administration of Justice, NCAJ. The NCAJ is the judicial oversight body bringing together the police, the judiciary, Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Police chief David Kimaiyo says that the girl took two months to report that she was raped and that there isn’t enough evidence to prosecute. He is also of the opinion that the time between her screams for help and villagers coming to her rescue was "too short for six assailants to have raped her".
This makes me sad. A child’s life forever altered and her assailants, the three she did identify, were ordered to cut grass around the police station as punishment.
There is someone who is failing us here and his name is Kimaiyo. Yes, the girl did not report the case for two months and the collection of physical evidence is challenging. She was however traumatized and safe to assume, terrified of her attackers. Villages by definition are small entities where she must have encountered her attackers after they raped her. Because villages are so small, it shouldn’t be that difficult to find out what happened from narrative, even though there isn’t much physical evidence.
Perhaps rape might be hard to prove, after all prosecutors the world over agree on this fact, but what about the beating and throwing her into a pit latrine? Apparently one of these actions is what broke Liz’s back. Aren’t these actions, these assaults, punishable by law? Isn’t maiming someone for life a criminal offense that deserves prosecution to the full extent of the law?
What about the police officer who asked the three men Liz identified to cut grass? Where is his punishment? Surely his failure to investigate the matter fully is gross employee misconduct? Has he been fired?
I get that Kenya has many problems but there is a war being fought of women’s bodies and it has to end. Recently at the play ‘Silence is a Woman’ a male performer stood up and said something like "as a Kenyan man, I can rape any woman I please and get away with it". He was tall, broad shouldered and deep voiced. The epitome of all things attractive in a man; and with that statement, he became the epitome of all things terrifying in a man. He was right. All the boys in Liz’s village know that he was right. So do all the girls. It makes going to school harder, it makes basic freedom of movement more complicated for girls and their parents alike.
Rape may seem like a feminine issue, ‘women’s business’, if you will; stuff that a lazy policeman can get away with refusing to investigate. But there is more at stake. There is a lot of talk about women being part of Kenya's Millennium Development Goals and playing a major role in Vision 2030. They are great ideals but unless and until women and girls are safe, our achievements will be forever hampered.
Kimaiyo, you and your police force need a lesson in the resultant trauma of rape, and sensitisation on how to deal with girls and women like Liz . Kimaiyo, do better! This is your opportunity to shine. Justice for Liz!!!