High level of sexual assault leaves Kisumu County grappling with many cases

Kisumu County Director for Gender Affairs Mrs. Jane Obiero talking about GBV in Kisumu at a local radio station.Picture:Oliver Ochieng
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In September 16, 2017, four year old Linet Akinyi* (not her real name) woke up a healthy and jovial girl in Kisumu City’s Manyatta Estate. As the day wore on, she was all over the place enjoying games like any normal child of her tender age.

At around 5pm, a Standard Seven boy from the neighbour’s house called and told her to follow him so that he could buy for her chips (fries). The young girl innocently obeyed and followed the boy, believed to be between 12 and 14 years old.

The boy led her to a bushy area near Manyatta Primary School where he defiled her. After the heinous act, he fled and left her for dead.

Later, the girl’s mother realised that she was missing. She started knocking at her neighbours’ doors in search of the girl. The search bore no fruit. The father was at his place of work oblivious of what had befallen his daughter.

The mother says that as darkness set in someone came   discovered the girl and took her to their house for safety. After asking around the Good Samaritan was able to trace the girl’s house and told the mother what had transpired.

The mother rushed to the good Samaritans’ house and found her daughter in a very bad state. She enquired from her what had happened to her. “She told us what had happened and even named the person who had defiled her,” said the mother.

They rushed the child to the Jaramogi Oginga Teaching and Referral Hospital (Russia) for treatment and counselling before calling her father.

Later, the suspect was arrested through the help of the village elders and security officers who boo him at the Kondele Police Station. He was charged in court with defilement.

The perpetrator was later released on bond as the case continued.

But the victim was admitted at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital for almost two weeks where she had to undergo an operation to correct the damages inflicted by the sexual assault.   The small girl still visits the hospital for check-ups.

Her mother says the incidents changed her daughter’s life for the worst. “Nowadays, she wakes up in the middle of the night and cries. It is as if she is recalling what happened to her,” says her mother.

It’s such cases of sexual and gender based violence in Kisumu County that are giving the County Director for Gender Affairs Jane Obiero nightmares.

Obiero says the vice is a major problem in the expansive county but they are tackling it head on.

Most of the cases of violence are linked to rape and defilement, followed by early marriages and widow inheritance.

“In Kisumu County, we are grappling with sexual and gender based violence cases where girls are defiled and women raped,” Obiero explained.

She was speaking in reference to an incident where a schoolgirl was waylaid and gang raped by seven men in Ahero.

The 17-year-old girl was walking home from a hotel in Kisumu in the evening where she works a casual labourer. She was grabbed by two men on a motorbike, who placed a knife on her throat.

They drove to a house in Ahero, where other men joined in and gang raped her for the entire night before throwing her out in the morning.

The girl was later treated at the Ahero Sub-County Hospital after initially being denied medication for lack of KSh30 to buy a treatment card at the hospital. She was treated after residents led by area Nyumba Kumi (Community Policing) Initiative chairman Hezekiah Omanga intervened. The matter is now under investigation.

Obiero noted that the rise in gender based violence cases was linked to boda-boda (motor bike) taxi operators who abuse their passengers.

Says the County Director of Gender Affairs in Kisumu County: “We used the 16 days of activism against GBV to create awareness within Kisumu County.”

The 16 days of Activism against Gender Based Violence normally starts on November 25 and ends on December 10. November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, while December 10 is the United Nations (UN) recognised Internal Human Rights Day.

Last year’s theme for the 16 days of International activism against GBV was “From peace in the homes to peace in the country: make education safe for all.”

In Kisumu County, there’s a fully-fledged GBV Recovery Centre at the Jaramogi Oginga Teaching and Referral Hospital (Russia), where a rape, defilement or any form of violence survivors can get medical and legal assistance.

“It is a one stop shop for GBV survivors. When you get there, you get medical treatment, counselling services, legal assistance and the police to help bring the perpetrators to book,” explained Obiero.

In order to effectively tackle the issue of gender based violence Obiero said they have formed the Gender Technical Working Group since the vice cannot be eradicated by an individual.

The group comprises of likeminded organisations and individuals among them civil society, faith based, police, Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA as well as Children’s Department and Social Services who have all come together with an aim of ensuring that the survivors gets proper medication, counselling  and justice.

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