GENDER AND FAMILY SEXUAL VIOLENCE: IS THERE JUSTICE?
The United Nations Platform of Action (1995) has described violence against women as an obstacle to the achievement of the objective of equality, development and peace. Young people are being sexually abused in homes and schools. The reality of sexual violence is glaring at all of us and the problem is escalating at a very high speed.
Sexual violence is one of the greatest impediments to attaining meaningful social development in our society especially among women. Young people ,especially girls are sexually abused in homes, schools , institutions of higher leaning, work places, on the streets, in market places, in the fields and religious institutions. The reality of sexual violence is glaring at all of us and the problem is escalating at a very high speed (FIDA.2012). It even becomes more complex in the context of the HIV pandemic, where the males of families or communities believe that having sex with a virgin girls wards of the infection. This increases the chances of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections for the rapists and victims of the rape ordeal, while increasing vulnerability of girls and women.
It is sad to note that cases of sexual violence in Kenya have recently been on the increase in almost all parts of the country. FIDA has observed that at every dawn, five children wake up defiled, three people end up dead and two women are raped, according to police statistics. Most of these cases go unreported. It is estimated that only 1 out of 20 women in Kenya will report a rape and only 1 in 6 will seek medical assistance. These figures could be much higher than those recorded by police since many victims shy away from reporting this form of violation (2012).
As we have seen in the second paragraph above, about where sexual violence is carried out, family contexts count as among the cases that are least reported. The experience of sexual violence in most families is treated with shame, protection of the male family member or protection of family name, silencing and respect for male in family. What the families forget to consider seriously is the traumatic life hurts the victim of family rape goes through and denial of justice to the offended person (in most cases –women or girls).
Jamillah, who hails from western Kenya, is an example of this family sexual violence ordeal. Jamillah said her mother passed away when she was young and her dad married a second wife. She narrated to me that as a young girl, she hoped to join the Kenya Army after ordinary level (form 4). After sharing her dreams with her father and since her step-uncle was working in the forces, he volunteered to take her with him so that she could do the interview the following day. She waited for the day with a lot of excitement and expectation. This was not to be, since by midnight, the uncle went into the room where she was sleeping and forcibly had sex with her. He then locked her up for 2 more days, not allowing the care takers of the place where they spent a night to open for her. She remembers crying for help, in pain, and with a lot of blood coming out of her, but to no avail. She struggled until she was able to push the door open, and jumped over the wall fence at night on the third day. She managed to get help and was taken to the nearby health facility after 72 hours had elapsed since the incident occurred. She was given post traumatic stress counseling and treatment for the bruises she had suffered.
The father took a legal action against his brother In-law, although the wife-Jamillah’s step mother was unhappy with her husband’s decision. She protested against the legal suit against her brother. The case too long but after a whole year of court proceedings, justice was finally served. The man (uncle)was arrested, arraigned before court, lost his job and imprisoned to serve as an example to others who may have similar thoughts. Jamillah’s uncle was charged with unlawful detention, rape and assault of his niece, and was sentenced to a jail term of 14 years. Like many other girls who go through rape in their families, Jamillah was seen as one on the wrong and the one who seduced her uncle. All fingers were pointed at her even when it was clear that was as victim of the rape circumstances. It is not surprising to see that the step-mother to Jamillah protested against the arrest of her brother for protection of the family name. What she forgot was impact of the cruel act the brother did and the traumatic stress the step daughter went through at the age of 18. She stopped being sensitive to the needs of the victim of rape and fought to have her brother released. Thank God the larger family supported Jamillah and agreed that the uncle had to pay for the ills he did
Jamillah went for regular hospital checkups and to her surprise, she was diagnosed with HIV, and she was expecting her uncle’s child. The legal office supported her and she was introduced to the hospital HIV support group and anti-rape groups in town. The pregnancy was terminated and she was given psycho-social support. Jamillah has moved on since she now works as an outreach services worker, and she gives a lot of support to women who have suffered sexual assault, the work she passionately does by giving a voice to the voiceless who have suffered sexual violence. She is happily married and has one son.
From the what we have seen above, and many other cases we may have come across, we can see that sexual violence is experienced at all levels-in offices, institutions o learning, churches, communities and families. It is worth noting that any forceful penetration is dehumanizing, unlawful and should be condemned in the strongest terms possible. A sexual encounter is supposed to be mutual for it to be seen as okay. But the moment one party takes advantage over the other party, it translates into abuse, which is punishable according to the Sexual Offenses Act of the republic of Kenya. Sexual assault in the family should be discouraged and not be seen as normal and silenced in patriarchal families where males are protected even when they hurt females. Families should come out and sacrifice their pride to protect the vulnerable girls and women.
The law should also take the full force in the event that a case of rape and defilement is reported by family members, like what happened to Jamillah. All people should stand up and protect girls and women who are sometimes raped, mutilated or even killed. Doing this will help protect the girls and women of our society from the traumatic experiences in life that can lead to short and long term impacts such as :fear of contracting STI including HIV,insecurity-the world becomes insecure place to be,trauma resulting from devalued self,physical and heath injuries such as damage of urethra, vagina, anus;pain syndromes-pelvic pain, irritable bowel;problems associated with sex,substance and alcohol dependency among many others.