Women victims of sexual abuse at mine speak about their ordeal

KNCHR chairperson Kagwiria Mbogori (Centre), vice chairman George Morara (right) and NLC director Leonard Omullo during proceedings of KNCHR inquiry at Kasigau Social Hall in Voi sub-County, Taita Taveta County on August 26, 2016. PHOTO | LUCY MKANYIKA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Women said some of their fellow victims were given Sh3, 000 by the perpetrator of the sexual abuse to drop their case.
  • The suspect was arrested and charged in court for sexual abuse charges that included searching the women’s genitals claiming they might have hidden gemstones.

Women victims of sexual harassment at a mining company in Kasigau, Taita Taveta County have disclosed how they were threatened and harassed by the perpetrator to withdraw their case from court.

Speaking after presenting their evidence to an inquiry into violations of human rights abuses at Taita Taveta mining zones, the women said the perpetrator, a company owner, also promised to "reward" them once they dropped the case.

The one-week investigations, through a public inquiry, have been initiated by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).

Speaking after giving their evidence in camera at the Kasigau Social Hall, the women said some of their fellow victims were given Sh3, 000 by the perpetrator of the sexual abuse, with promises of more goodies once she was acquitted by the Voi Law Courts.

The suspect was arrested and charged in court for sexual abuse charges that included searching the women’s genitals claiming they might have hidden gemstones there.

They said more than 100 women went through the ordeal while working as casuals at her mining site last year.

The women were taken into a room where they were forced to remove their clothes by their boss who would then insert fingers to check whether they had put minerals into their private parts.

One of the victims said those who resisted the ordeal were threatened to be shot.

“We went through this every evening. Even the men were were frisked but they were not forced to remove their clothes,” a victim narrated on Friday.

She said she feared for her life because their perpetrator was a gun holder and an influential person in government.

“We knew the case would not go far so I decided to forgive her. God will deal with her because I am a no body so I know I cannot get justice,” she said.

She said she feared that the perpetrator would harm her and leave behind her children who depend on her.

“She sent a female police officer who told us to drop the case. I realized she was working with the police so no matter how much we pressed on we would eventually be on the losing side,” she narrated.

She also said court visits were too expensive for them since they did not have money to pay for their bus fare.

She accused leaders of failing to help them get justice.

“I was taken to the dock and a police officer stood in front of me as if I were the accused. I could not allow myself to go through this,” she said.

She said the accused called them and asked them to meet her in Voi town to settle the issue.

“Our boss sent us fare to go to the court and withdraw the case. Her lawyer then took us to a certain office where we gave him our IDs and we signed a certain document. We do not know the details of the document,” she said.

Some of the victims however said they were ready to press fresh charges against the company owner.

They said they were not aware that their colleagues had agreed to withdraw the case.

“We allowed only four of them to write statements on our behalf. We will press on until we get justice,” said one of them.

An investor, Mr Francis Kalenzoya, told the inquiry that some workers stole minerals from the mines.

“I don't support such inhumane acts of employers but it is true some workers steal minerals from us,” he said.

However, Mr Kalenzoya said it was important for investors to take care of their staff's welfare.

(Editing by Joel Muinde)

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