Kenyan women's rights groups have expressed outrage at recent incidents in which policemen have been accused of rape, and urged the authorities to take appropriate action to instil discipline within the force in order to stamp out such crimes.
Simon Ndudu, a policeman in Nairobi's Kamukunji area, was arrested on Monday, and has been charged with raping a 14-year-old orphaned girl. His arrest came in response to pressure from outraged women's groups. Sources said the girl, who had travelled to the capital, Nairobi, to seek a relative for financial assistance, was still in hospital following surgery.
Two other cases - one involving a four-year-old child, and the other, a 22-year old woman, both also reportedly raped by policemen - were reported this week, but suspects are yet to be arrested.
According to the Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW), the three rape cases are a sign that sexual offences are rampant not only among the public but also within the police force country-wide, but most go unreported as victims are intimidated.
COVAW's Anne Gathumbi told IRIN that two out of every five women in Nairobi suffered sexual abuse. "The problem is that what we are seeing are just the reported cases, but the actual figures could be staggering," she said.
Gathumbi also complained of delays affecting the arrests of suspects. She told IRIN that although the 14-year-old had reported the offence immediately after it occurred on 30 January, the suspect was not arrested until five days later. "It is good he [the policeman] has been charged, but we are watching very closely to ensure the due process of the law is followed," Gathumbi said.
According to media reports, when the girl went to the nearby police station, officers on duty refused to take her statement, saying she could not sue a policeman. Women's groups also want those policemen to face charges.
The Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Kenya chapter, said it would assist the minor and her family to pursue the case. "We note the callous attitude demonstrated by the officers who were on duty at the time the girl went to report the abuse," FIDA said in a statement. "To say that they would not take her statement because the perpetrator of the abuse is a policeman amounts to complicity on their part. They too must be investigated with a view to having disciplinary action taken against them."
The Kenya Anti-Rape Organisation, an NGO, said it was "unfortunate" that the crime was committed by a law enforcer. "We condemn the heinous crime involving the defilement of minors, especially when committed by people in law enforcement," the East African Standard quoted Abeyd Anyanzwa, the organisation's secretary-general, as saying.
The rapes have brought the police force's already damaged image into sharp focus, especially in the context of the new government, which came to power in December 2002 and immediately pledged to uphold human rights.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions