Unfortunately, it sometimes takes an act (or several acts) of nightmarish brutality for serious cultural and legal reform to take place. That so far seems to be the case in Kenya, where people outraged at the lenient treatment of several men accused of raping a teenage girl are demanding that the men be punished more severely.
According to Kenya’s Daily Nation, the 16-year-old rape survivor was walking home from her grandfather’s funeral on June 26 in the town of Busia when she was attacked and allegedly raped by six men, who subsequently buried her in a 20-foot latrine. Hours later, the girl’s cries for help attracted the attention of some neighbors, who were able to rescue her from the latrine. The girl was then able to identify three of her attackers, and neighbors helped take them to a local police station.
That, however, is where the wheels of justice stopped spinning. The police ordered the accused men to cut grass in the station’s yard, then released them without any further punishment or investigation.
Outrage has been building among Kenyans in the months since the girl’s attack, and by 8:30 pm on Friday, a petition urging the police to ensure justice was carried for the girl had garnered 190,000 signatures (according to CNN, that number was up to 400,000 by Saturday). The petition, created through online campaigning network Avaaz by Nebila Abdulmelik from the African Women’s Development Communication Network (FEMNET), reads:
Join us in calling for Justice for Liz, an immediate arrest of the perpetrators and disciplinary action on the police (for negligence). We must not allow impunity to reign while women and girls bodies continue to be battlefields.
The Daily Nation has also been leading an effort to raise money for the girl’s medical bills (since the attack, she has had to use a wheelchair and has lost full control of her bowels), and the flurry of public outrage appears to have had an effect on Kenya’s justice system. Tweeting on Saturday, Kenya police chief David Kimaiyo thanked the petition-signers and assured everyone that the rape suspects had been arraigned in court, though it’s not clear when the arrests were made.
Image via AP, Khalil Senosi