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Kenya gang rapists - million want justice

29 October 2013, 06:37

Nairobi - Over one million furious campaigners have signed a petition demanding justice after three men accused of brutally gang raping a Kenyan schoolgirl were ordered to cut grass as punishment.

The ferocious attack on the teenage girl and lack of action against those who carried it out has sparked outrage in the country.

The 16-year-old, known by the pseudonym Liz, was reportedly attacked, beaten and then raped by six men as she returned from her grandfather's funeral in western Kenya in June, before the gang dumped her, bleeding and unconscious, in a deep sewage ditch.

On Monday, the number of those who signed an online petition started by Kenyan woman Nebila Abdulmelik and publicised by the campaign group Avaaz passed the million mark and was continuing to grow.

"Letting rapists walk free after making them cut grass has to be the world's worst punishment for rape," Abdulmelik said. "It's an absolute failure of the entire system and an absolutely shameful response by Kenya's police."

The victim knew some of the attackers, and three of them were taken by villagers to the local police station, the girl's mother earlier told Kenyan media.

"The three... were only ordered to cut grass around the police camp and set free shortly after," the girl's mother told the paper.

She is now wheelchair-bound with a broken back, caused either by the beating or by being hurled down into the pit, and also suffered serious internal injuries from the rape.

"My wish is to see justice done," the girl told The Nation newspaper, which first reported the story and has led a campaign including raising funds to cover medical costs.

"I want my attackers arrested and punished."

Hold to account

Lawmakers have condemned the attack and subsequent police failures, ordering action to be taken.

"Liz's ordeal is unbearable to imagine, but the only way to stop police dealing with victims with such heartless negligence is by holding them to account," said Dalia Hashad, campaign director for Avaaz.

Kenya's police chief David Kimaiyo said in a statement at the weekend that "investigations are complete", and that the force was awaiting only instructions from the office of the director of public prosecutions. He gave no further details.

Rape is a major problem in Kenya, and is often not taken seriously by the police, according to studies.

One government study in 2009 found that as many as a fifth of women and girls were victims of sexual violence, although other later studies have put the rate even higher.

Another UN-backed government study in 2010 focusing on children found a third of girls and a fifth of boys had suffered sexual violence.

"Liz is sadly not the first or last victim of rape," Abdulmelik added, who works for a women's rights group in Kenya.

"Her case has to be the moment when we all rally together, express our solidarity, our outrage and demand public accountability and an end to the culture of violence and impunity that has become the norm."



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