• Justice eludes victims as DPP, police, health workers, judicial officers pass the buck
• Police gender director Anyim calls for training across all sectors to enhance services
In the journey towards helping victims of gender-based violence get justice, police officers are often seen as the weakest link.
Many lack proper training on how to handle victims and collect evidence, while some are said to collect bribes from perpetrators to make cases disappear or get settled out of court.
Police Inspector Florence Anyim said multi-sectorial training is greatly needed. She is the director of community policing, gender and child protection in the Kenya Police.
"We have a challenge in our services because there is always a blame game between the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the police," she said.
"A blame game between the police and health workers and doctors. Even a blame game between police officers and magistrates."
Often, the ODPP faults police officers for not collecting evidence in the proper manner. Police officers say that that mandate falls on health workers, whom victims are referred to for treatment and sampling of evidence.
Anyim said the end to this blame game will only be achieved if training is given across all these sectors so they can give proper services to their clients.
She said the construction of the Digital Forensic Laboratory at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations Headquarters will help to solve cases faster due to analysing of evidence faster.
However, the training of collection of evidence by the police and healthcare workers is essential.
Police officers also need to be held accountable for handling cases without following due process.
Cases that hardly make it to court often impede access to justice for victims of gender-based violence greatly.
Dr Ruth Nekura, legal director at the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA), said out-of-court settlements are unconstitutional.
"They stand in the way of accountability because perpetrators will be roaming around and, therefore, it will be impossible to prevent violence against women," she said.
If accountability is not done, and it is understood that you can pay your way out of crimes, it creates an enabling environment for violence to thrive, Nekura said.
"It becomes normal as it is in our society because nobody is ever held accountable for it," she added.
Nekura said victims of violence should not be made to carry the burden of investigation by security agencies.
"We can't have a system or a society where if you are raped, it is your problem, it is your fault," she said.
"In many jurisdictions, we see victims asked to lure the perpetrator into a trap set up by police so better evidence can be gotten. Victims are not supposed to be law enforcers."
Inspector Anyim said there are structures for reporting cases of mishandling of gender-based violence cases by the police.
"The Kenya Police Service has a toll-free line to report gender-based violence cases. However, the line also doubles up as a channel for victims to report when they feel their case is not being handled well by any police officer," she said.
The toll-free line, 0800730999, is manned by personnel at the Police Headquarters, Directorate of Gender and Child Protection Unit, who can respond to queries at any time.
She added that oversight bodies are also available to hold police officers accountable. These include Internal Affairs, located at Jogoo House, and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority.
"In case there is gross mishandling of your case by a police officer that seems to have a lot of power at that particular police station, then you can report them to these oversight bodies so swift action can be taken," she said.
Anyim added that the public's perception of police officers is slightly warranted because they are a vital part of their security as the first line of defence.
"The police station is like a gatekeeper in the criminal justice system and any service given to a survivor by a police officer will determine how they view the police from then on," she said.
She said the whole reason the Kenya Police Force was renamed to the Police Service was to show that they indeed are service providers.
"You cannot just go to the report desk at a police station where people are crowded and report your sensitive case," she said.
"Privacy is required for such cases and that's why gender desks must be made to work."
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