Joint Call to Action by Equality Now, COVAW, FEMNET, AVAAZ, SOAWR & REEP: Justice For Liz!

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One year later, we still demand Justice for Liz & all survivors of sexual violence in Kenya!
   Photos courtesy of Avaaz.org

20 June 2014 - Nearly a year ago, the world was outraged by the story of Liz who was brutally gang-raped in western Kenya while walking home from a funeral, left to die in a pit latrine, and suffered an obstetric fistula as a result of the attack. In October 2013, the Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW), the African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) and Avaaz obtained more than 1.7 million signatures globally demanding that the Inspector General of Police, David Kimaiyo, arrest and prosecute the suspects who raped Liz – and such heavy pressure seems to be the only reason that any action has been taken so far. Equality Now joined in the global campaign dubbed Justice for Liz, inviting the world to exert pressure for the arrest and prosecution of the six suspects. Yet so far, only one suspect has been arrested, while the remaining five are at large, despite reports from the community that their whereabouts are known. Initially, three had been apprehended, but the police officer on duty recorded the attack as an “assault” after failing to carry out a proper investigation, and ordered them to cut grass outside the police station before they were released from custody.

Liz’s case drew national and international attention to Busia County and the failures of the local authorities to adequately address sexual violence. The evidence from Busia is very compelling, and highlights the prevalence of sexual violence plaguing women and girls, and the tremendous obstacles encountered at every stage of the criminal justice process. One police officer from Busia, when asked about the high number of rapes from the region speculated that it was because girls in Busia, “they roam around, they go to discos.” And as for the police’s role, he remarked “sometimes you cannot investigate all the cases.” There are dozens if not hundreds of cases that underscore just how dire the situation has become in Busia, including*:

  • 14-year-old F., who was raped by a senior ranking police corporal in Butula sub-county. When the case was reported by a fellow female police officer, the officer’s job, security and life were threatened. A day after a doctor examined F., thanks to the help of local organizations, officers from the local Criminal Investigation Department took F., alone in the same vehicle with her rapist for new medical investigations which contradicted the original medical report. Young F. still awaits justice.
  • 12-year-old A. who was defiled [raped], impregnated twice, and infected with HIV by a prominent teacher who had employed her as domestic help. A. comes from a very poor family and is mentally disabled, but was able to communicate clearly what had happened to her. There are reports that officials from the local children’s office in Busia protected the perpetrator, who is still teaching and is rumored to be transferred soon to another school.
  • 15-year-old Am., in very similar circumstances to Liz’s case, was gang raped walking home from a funeral.
  • 13-year-old Mo., who is severely mentally handicapped and was defiled by a man who was found with her undergarments in his pocket. He was eventually set free because Mo. could not, two years later, identify in court that the undergarments were indeed her own.
  • 8-year-old B., who was defiled by her father. The court granted him a lenient jail term, claiming that such a man could never change, even with a life sentence.
  • 12-year-old Me., who was gang raped by members of the community in the company of other children.  To date, no legal action has been taken and reports indicate that one of the perpetrators has since defiled other children in the community.
  • 15-year-old S., who was being abused by a village elder and became pregnant as a result of the attacks. The police subsequently released the perpetrator - despite being hand delivered by the chief for trial - and he has since run away to evade justice.
  • 4-year-old H., who was raped but was not allowed to give testimony in her case - and thus the accused was acquitted on the grounds that nobody witnessed the perpetrator committing the act. There has been no effort to provide psychosocial counseling for the girl despite her significant trauma.

There are countless other girls and women who have reported crimes of sexual violence in Busia, but no legal action has been taken by the police or authorities in Busia to ensure their access to justice. Ahead of Liz’s trial, on Monday 23 June 2014, Equality Now, COVAW, Avaaz, REEP and the Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) coalition will be holding a rally and community dialogue in Busia town to demand justice for victims of sexual violence and raise awareness on the systemic failures to address the problem in Busia County. We need your help leading up to Monday’s rally and Tuesday’s trial hearing to amplify our call for justice and for authorities to take sexual violence more seriously in Kenya, especially in Busia. Sexual violence is a global scourge that we can all lend a hand in to effect positive change.

Here are a few ways you can help make a difference today!

1. Use Twitter and Facebook to spread the word that we’ve had ENOUGH when it comes to sexual violence. Tag your family, friends, and prominent figures/outlets, e.g. celebrities, media, so that we can create a groundswell of support for survivors of sexual violence in Busia – and let Liz know that we will continue to fight for her rights. Visit http://www.equalitynow.org/demand_justiceforliz for a list of suggested tweets and authorities to tag, or follow @equalitynow, @COVAW, @FemnetProg, @Avaaz to re-tweet our messaging.

2. TAKE ACTION!

  • Add your name to Equality Now’s petition targeting key authorities in Kenya to demanding justice for Liz and all survivors of sexual violence in Kenya
  • Join the more than 1.7 million worldwide who have already signed the Avaaz petition demanding justice for Liz and all survivors of sexual violence!

3. Join us in Busia Monday 23 June! If you are in the area and would like to join us for the rally and community dialogue, we’ll be beginning at 10am at Korinda Prison in Busia and will be proceeding to the Busia Law Courts. The community dialogue will take place in the afternoon at Busia Polytechnic, where we will be airing QTV/Nation Media’s documentary, The Forgotten, on sexual violence in Busia.