Fill gaps in the law for sexual violence justice
Sexual violence against minors is not only a global concern but also a health challenge. Despite the vice being illegal and a grave violation of human rights, it is pervasive.
Recently, three minors in Dandora, Nairobi, were defiled by a stranger when they went to collect food from their aunt. One had been sexually assaulted when she was nine.
Reports say one in five women and girls are victims with incidents rarely reported due to stigma and lack of faith in the police and the criminal justice system despite strong legislation.
It is time the country reviewed its laws and policies on sexual violence to ensure they are effective in ending rape menace. First, crime prevention and criminal justice responses should be victim-centred to close loopholes and stop discriminatory rules and also hand stiffer penalties to perpetrators and service providers who frustrate rape survivors by taking bribes.
Secondly, the roles and responsibilities of service providers and supervisory and accountability measures should be clearly outlined and frequently addressed. Thirdly, there is a need to train healthcare providers and legal officers on sexual and gender-based violence and its dire consequences to help them to respond effectively and promptly, hence promoting compassionate, ethical and non-judgemental post-rape care.
Fourth, prosecutors should be trained to conduct rigorous investigations for successful prosecution and also be empowered to minimise releasing perpetrators, which poses a risk to the victims and encourages potential rapists.
Fifth, the lack of sufficient attention to justice and reparations should be addressed. Sixth, service providers should be friendly to sexual violence victims to encourage reporting of incidents which will ensure culprits don’t go unpunished.
Lastly, a higher legal aid budget and investment in mental health services, besides recruiting and training judicial, police and medical officers on proper care of survivors, are necessary.
Ms Namarome is a communication student at Rongo University. [email protected]