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Hope for Kenya’s Forgotten Victims

Proposed Reparations Bill Chance to Compensate Post-Election Rape Survivors

Women take part in a protest along a main street in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi November 17, 2014. The demonstrators were demanding justice for a woman who was attacked and stripped in Nairobi by men who claimed that she was dressed indecently. © 2014 Reuters

This weekend, I received the sad news that Chepkorir had died. Chepkorir, whose name I have changed to protect her privacy, was raped in December 2007. The men who raped her beat her badly and she had been struggling with poor health ever since.

Chepokorir is among thousands of women and girls who were sexually abused during the violence that erupted in Kenya between December 2007 and the end of February 2008 following the disputed presidential election. In our 2016 report, I interviewed 163 women and girls and nine men who had survived rape from that period of violence. These survivors endured all kinds of disturbing and brutal violence, including rape, gang rape, and having genitals beaten or mutilated. Most of the women and girls I spoke with were assaulted by more than four men and, in a few instances, more than ten. Women and girls told me they were penetrated with guns, sticks, bottles, and other objects, in attacks in which they were also badly beaten.

Kenyan authorities have largely failed to provide survivors with support to deal with the trauma of rape, or with medical care – either at the time of the violence or in the years that passed. More than a decade later, Kenyan officials have only convicted a handful of individuals for sex crimes related to the 2007-2008 election violence. Despite a commitment by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2014 to establish a fund of 10 billion Kenyan Shillings to help victims of past injustices, including victims of the 2007 political violence, survivors of rape have not received any compensation.

Women have waited for years for Kenyan authorities to do what is right. Some, like Chepkorir, have died waiting. But there is hope: A bill has been introduced in parliament to provide for recognition and reparations for victims of human rights violations in Kenya, which would include rape survivors of the 2007-2008 election violence.

Kenyan parliament should move with speed to finalize the reparations bill, and the government should immediately carry out its provisions. This is the moment to right past wrongs against rape survivors. 

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