50% of Kenyan women 'have suffered violence '

It is estimated that only one out of 20 women will report rape and only one in six will seek medical assistance

In Summary

• Rape is believed to be the most highly under-reported crime in Kenya.

• Shame and stigmatisation keep most women and men from reporting the crime.

Almost half of Kenyan women have suffered physical or sexual violence, including forced sexual initiation, rights groups say.

the Kenya National Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Watch say much of the violence is barely acknowledged, let alone investigated and prosecuted.

In some cases, rape ends up in death and most victims are poor women.

Police estimate that rape is the most under-reported crime in Kenya.

It can happen to anyone, rich or poor, adult or child.

It is estimated that only one out of 20 Kenyan women in Kenya will report rape and only one in six will seek medical assistance.

"It's a very traumatising thing and many women feel extremely violated by police officers who ask them to show them how the rape occurred and even blame them for the act," gender activist Florence Machio said.

As a result of police mistreatment and trauma, many women suffer in silence. 

It was a normal night, Wavinya said, the familiar tightly winding streets were dimly lit. She could see clearly, even though there was no moonlight. She felt mostly safe as people were walking around, many of them celebrating the announcement of the new president after the 2017 August elections.

Then she encountered a group of young men and two of them approached her menacingly. When she looked down, she could see that they had knives pointing towards her. They inched the knives close to her sides.

“I was scared, she said. 

“They told me to walk with them and I did. They asked me whether I knew them and where I lived. I recognised one of them, but I didn't say anything. I could not.”


They walked to a secluded area where rocks and trash littered the ground. No one was nearby though she could hear the celebrations in the distance. The men told her to take off her clothes and lie down on the rocks.

“I lay down and they raped me, anally and vaginally,” she says “They beat me badly and hurt my left ear. I was crying, but they did not stop. I don't remember how many there were,” Wavinya sobs quietly, shaking her head.

When they let her go, Wavinya walked slowly, painfully and spoke to some men who helped her get to a medical centre. She got medical treatment and was advised to go to the police. By daybreak, she got to the police station to report the gang rape. Wavinya then went home to her children. Two years later, she is still waiting for justice and she has been shunned by friends and relatives who know of her ordeal.

Many survivors of sexual violence who spoke to Human Rights Watch say they face stigma in their communities. It is difficult for them to speak openly when they are shunned by their loved ones. Although some seek medical assistance, most suffer physical and psychological trauma in silence.

Halima (not her real name), a 28-year-old city woman is suffering in silence. She was gang-raped by her two cousins Ahmed and Mohammed (not their real names) at her family's home in Eastleigh. Life has been torture.

"It was on a Friday night in 2016 when Ahmed and Moha sexually abused me," she said.

Her parents were away when Moha invited her outside the house for a chat. "I found Ahmed smoking weed which is illegal. They told me to smoke but at first, I refused because I had never tried it before," she told the Star.

They persuaded her to try and finally, she decided to smoke. "After taking two puffs I started coughing heavily and couldn't do it anymore. Moha forced me to smoke again."

She said she didn't know what happened thereafter. "I woke up the following day in a pool of blood and could barely walk," she said.

The tall thin woman never figured out what went wrong until she sought treatment at a  hospital. She was told she had been raped.

"I was crushed. Losing virginity in our religion before marriage is a big sin. I had problems walking and experienced pain when passing urine for eight days before it stopped," Halima said.

She added, "I locked myself in the house for weeks and never told anyone for fear of being stigmatised. To date, I've never told my parents or had the  courage to face a therapist."

Allan (not his real name) feels guilty for not taking care of a child he sired with a woman he met at a party in 2010. "I don't think I will ever go back to Eldoret again. We met at a party, she was drunk, we shared a room and things happened," the 36-year-old banker said.

He is married now with two children. I wasn't ready for a child when she told me she was two weeks' pregnant. I  regret my actions but I had to cut communication with her and move to Nairobi. I hope she is with a good man and taking care of the kid. Afterall children are blessings from God."

Mercy, a third-year student studying hotel management at a city college was raped by two male working-class friends. It started with partying at an upmarket club and ended up in an apartment along Kahywawe Road. "We smoked shisha laced with some hard drugs and I took too much for the road. In the morning, I woke up at 11am only to find myself in a bed naked, with used condoms on the floor, she said.

The 26-year-old sat on the bed in disbelief and wept without knowing what to do. She left the room to look at the house and met a cleaner who reminded her that her time was over and she had to leave.

"I had no shoes, no phone, no bag, only the clothes I had on the previous day. I borrowed a phone called a taxi and as we drove on my way home, thousands of questions filled my mind."

Just like many who don't report rape and defilement, Mercy chose silence.

 "I went through physiological torture and I didn't report the case for fear of stigma and being talked about. Most people will brand you a whore if you dare speak up. Society will always judge you."

Her cousin was also raped by a neighbour and her family blamed her. "They said her dressing style provoked the man to rape her and she was branded all sorts of names."

According to the Economic Survey 2019, 921 males and females were reported to have been raped and 4,767 defiled in 2018