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February 19, 2019

Tragic story of sexual violence in Kenya

Still Standing film
Still Standing film

A new film by Irin delves into the issue of sexual violence in Kenya.

Still Standing is the story of Ziborah Iala, a woman who was raped during the post election violence. The film opens with Ziborah recalling all her conversations with God - asking him not to take her spirit with her weak body and to give her a new body so that nobody could see the difficulties and hardships she has gone through.

 Her story is one of sadness and pain. She was at home when a gang of men attacked her.

“I heard a door bang, then they were all in the house. I was hit on the head with a metal bar,” she says, telling how the men held her down and raped her until she was unconscious.

 With the story as the set background, the viewers get to see the statistics of sexual violence in Kenya. The percentage of Kenyan women aged between 15 and 49 years exposed to physical and sexual violence stands at 45 per cent while that of women who consider rape, defilement and battering not a serious crime stands at 72 per cent.

 According to Till Muellenmeister, the photographer and director of the film, the urgency of the matter compelled them to work on the story.

"We wanted to focus on the trauma that many rape victims face after their martyrdom of rape. I wanted to tell the story of one survivor, which explains the situation and struggle of so many other victims in Kenya and other parts of the world. Their fight for justice is rarely heard and often ignored by the government, but for the recovery and healing process of the survivors this is an indispensable step. Many survivors feel left alone in their struggle and lose hope."

 Ziborah's story does not stop with the rape. It is just the beginning. The viewer is then taken through her quest for healing and justice.

From the corridors of Kenyatta National Hospital to the Courts of Justice, Ziborah tells of the insensitivity with which she was treated by the health care provider.

 Rape is something that leaves a scar in the survivors' mind, and they need time to come to terms with it. In Ziborah's case, it took her six weeks to acknowledge and say out loud that she was raped.

But even after her utterance, she went deaf for almost three hours and did not want to say it or hear any one say the word. All these changes when she got counselling.

 “Women need a lot of counselling, because this wound of rape does not end easily,” Ziborah says, words that ring true because she had a lot to deal with, from the changes she was going through and other aspects in life that she had to tolerate, especially dealing with her brothers and her children and their acceptance of whatever happened to her.

 In Ziborah's quest for justice, the loopholes in the police work is exposed. The police in charge of her case acknowledge that she was raped and the rape cases were on an increase, but they did not work on it. Instead they focused on her physical wound on her head.

 Ziborah also decries the illusion of justice prevailing in society. It seems that it is a preserve for the rich and not the poor because most poor people, including her, cannot access justice. They are not able to afford lawyers, therefore they end up in silence, which is also worsened by the stigma they face.

Produced by Irin Films, the video is a wake-up call to society to face the facts of rape and its consequences, not only to the survivors but also everyone else.

 The soundtrack, by Cartoon Obwakasson, is a perfect selection as it signifies the hope for a better day, not only for Ziborah but also for other sexual and gender-based violence survivors.

But the question that remains in our minds is what have we, as a society, done to the survivors and what kind of support can we give them to get to the point of healing? It compels us to question the existing systems of justice and the implementation of laws.

 This must-see film brings to mind the injustice that women face, and reminds the viewer about Liz fom Busia, who just like Ziborah, was gang-raped before being dumped in a pit latrine. Just like Ziborah, she is still in need of medical care and counseling, and her case still remains unsolved, months after her attack.

 

The film is available on Irin Film's YouTube Channel.

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