Contact: Brendan Wynne, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 7593 300 794
Justice has finally been served for a girl who was gang-raped and left for dead in Busia County, Western Kenya in June 2013. 16 year old Liz’s pursuit for justice has been supported by almost two million people globally and has exposed the cracks in a system, where prosecutions are few and far between and cases are riddled with complex challenges to overcome. The verdict was initially due to be presented on 10 April 2015, but one of the accused did not appear in court. On the following day, he was arrested by the authorities and on 13 April, the judgment was given. The three accused were convicted on both counts of gang-rape and grievous harm and sentenced to 15 years and 7 years respectively.
This success has come on the back of sustained efforts by an amazing team including Equality Now, REEP, COVAW, AVAAZ, FEMNET and several members of the Solidarity for African Women's Rights Coalition (SOAWR) such as Ipas, Fahamu and FIDA-Kenya.
"Today’s sentencing is sure to have a ripple effect across the nation, and hopefully the region at large. Negative cultural attitudes towards women, as well as the fear and stigma associated with such crimes, make reporting of cases a daunting and often impossible task. An estimated 19 out of 20 rapes in Kenya are not reported and are therefore unpunished. Equally troubling, the national number of defilement cases in Kenyan courts nearly doubled last year.
If a victim manages to overcome the huge initial hurdle and manages to report what happened, apathy or a lack of knowledge of laws, policies and procedures by officials – and the continued lack of resources – mean that cases are often poorly handled from the outset. In Liz’s case, three of the six perpetrators are also still at large, although it has been a year since arrest warrants were issued. Sensitive treatment of survivors of sexual violence is also almost universally lacking.
Liz’s case, and the failure of local authorities to adequately address sexual violence, drew national and international attention to Busia County. However, her case – as well as the dozens of others that Equality Now and our partners has helped bring to the fore in Western Kenya – are only the tip of the iceberg.
Liz has finally gotten justice and her case will hopefully continue to be a wake-up call for all. We hope that it can also be used to highlight the gaps in policies and procedures. Authorities must be held accountable and we must continue to push for safe environments for girls, where sexual violence is not tolerated and is punished to the fullest extent of the law.
There is potential too to use knowledge gained from this case to help clarify the role of special prosecutors and intermediaries, and to better protect survivors of sexual violence during the entire legal process. There is also an opportunity to learn from best practice and to push for further implementation of the law and the bolstering of systems, which protect the rights of Kenyan girls and women.”
Kimberly Brown, Legal Consultant, Equality Now
Equality Now works to ensure justice for adolescent girls by supporting legal cases like Liz’s, which represent some of the most common and significant abuses of the rights of girls around the world. We help to change the life of one girl, but also build pressure to push for meaningful and lasting systemic change.