Kenya: Ensure justice for 16-year-old Liz & all victims of sexual violence
13 February 2017 UPDATE: Success! On 9 February a controversial amendment to lower the age of sexual consent in Kenya from 18 to 16 years old was officially withdrawn. Despite alarming rates of sexual exploitation of minors, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale had proposed the amendment to the Statute Miscellaneous Amendment Bill in late December 2016 causing widespread outrage. Equality Now immediately took action, reaching out to government officials and working with partners to demand the clause be withdrawn.
Young protester at a Justice for Liz rally in Kenya. Photo courtesy of COVAW.
While returning home from a funeral in Busia County, Kenya in late June 2013, 16-year-old Liz was brutally gang raped and thrown, unconscious and battered, down a pit latrine. Three of the suspects were caught, but, astonishingly, the police recorded the attack as a mere “assault” and released the assailants after having them cut the police station grass as “punishment.” Tragically, as a result of the attack Liz was confined to a wheelchair and developed obstetric fistula, rendering her incontinent. Liz is now recovering after surgery and is receiving counseling, but has been unable to return to school due to her continued hospitalization.
Seven months after a global campaign, spearheaded in October 2013 by the Kenyan women’s NGOs, Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) and African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), acquired more than 1.7 million signatures demanding #JusticeForLiz, little progress has been made. While the authorities took notice at first, their attention seems to have waned. In a press release earlier this year the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions issued assurances that Liz’s case would proceed to court without further delay. However, five of the six suspects identified still have not been arrested despite reports that their whereabouts are known. Further, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority has not yet released their investigative report on the allegations of egregious professional misconduct by police officers handling this case, and no lawful action has been taken to address the police failures in this case.
Much more must be done to protect Kenya’s women and girls from sexual violence and to ensure timely access to justice for all survivors. Tragically Liz’s experience is commonplace in Kenya, where 1 in 5 women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. Therefore, please join Equality Now, and our partners through the Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) Coalition - COVAW, FIDA-Kenya, FEMNET, Fahamu and IPAS - in calling for justice for Liz and for all survivors and victims of sexual violence.