Police are on the spot over rape allegations levelled against them since the August 8 General Election.
In a petition to the government, civil society organisations are demanding that police stop raping civilians and that the government ensures immediate access to medical care for victims.
The 20 societies led by Physicians for Human Rights have so far recorded 60 cases of sexual violence committed in Nairobi, Nyanza and western regions.
According to the groups, both genders were affected and suffered varied forms of sexual violence including rape, indecent touch and forced nudity, in some cases accompanied by severe physical assault.
According to the letter addressed to Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet, acting Cabinet Secretary for Interior Fred Matiang’i and Cabinet Secretary for Health Cleopa Mailu, they want a written and public caution issued to all police officers to desist from committing any form of sexual violence in the conduct of their duties.
“We urge you to issue a public notice outlining the protocols and code of conduct to be followed by police officers in the conduct of security operations, including specific circumstances under which police may be permitted to enter the homes of civilians,” reads part of the letter.
The physicians maintained that all Kenyans are entitled to know the laid down rules and procedures that guide police conduct during operations, to be aware and take appropriate action when a line is crossed.
In the letter, they also want to ensure that survivors are provided with timely and adequate medical and forensic services and that measures to protect vulnerable people are put in place.
“We are also particularly concerned about the ongoing nurses’ strike and its effect on victims’ ability to access comprehensive and affordable medical services in public health facilities,” says the letter.
They called upon Dr Mailu to issue a written and public notice reminding health providers that they are obligated to provide free medical treatment to survivors of sexual violence, including completion of Post-Rape Care and P3 medical forms in accordance with the Sexual Offences Act of 2006 and Sexual Offences (Medical Treatment) Regulations of 2012.
From the reported cases, the perpetrators were mostly police officers deployed to protect communities affected by the election-related violence while others included militia groups and gang members who took advantage of the violence.
The letter clarified that majority of the victims were unable to access timely medical care, mostly due to the prevailing insecurity and the ongoing nurses’ strike with most facilities not able to provide emergency and comprehensive post-rape care.
In some cases, victims were asked to pay for the completion of Post-Rape Care and P3 medical forms, contrary to existing laws.
Several victims urgently need medical treatment for resulting injuries and illnesses, as well as counselling and psycho-social support.
“The emerging cases and patterns of sexual violence reflect a worrying but familiar reality in Kenya. Almost 10 years ago, the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence following the 2007 elections documented at least 900 cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence, which it termed ‘a tip of the iceberg’”.
The government has a standing constitutional and legal obligation to prevent the occurrence of sexual violence in situations of civil strife and to ensure effective and comprehensive medical, forensic, and legal services to victims of such violations.
Therefore, the state should urgently initiate measures to protect individuals and communities that may be vulnerable to sexual violence; ensure timely, accessible, affordable, quality, and comprehensive medical and forensic services for victims of sexual violence during this political period; and expeditiously investigate and prosecute perpetrators.
The physicians and the 19 other civil society organisations worked in collaboration with community actors, human rights defenders, health workers, government institutions, and development partners.
A Kisumu-based doctor who declined to be mentioned for sensitivity of the matter, said there were five rape victims who were treated at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital over the period.
Though the doctor says the number could be higher than that since most sexual harassment was recorded in slums and that the victims were not willing to come out and report.
“If they do not report, it is even more dangerous because they require emergency interventions to avert life-long health consequences such as HIV and even pregnancy,” said the doctor.