Nairobi - A Kenyan High Court has ordered police to
reinvestigate complaints of rape by 11 girls in a landmark case brought by a
children's charity on behalf of more than 240 victims of child rape, some of
them as young as three years old.
Mercy Chidi, who runs the Ripples International children's
charity in Meru, Kenya, filed a petition on behalf of the girls, who came to
the charity for help after being raped by fathers, grandfathers, uncles, police
officers and neighbours.
The police rarely investigated their complaints, even
locking one girl in a cell after she reported one of their colleagues had raped
her, Chidi said.
Police demanded bribes to investigate rape, refused to
investigate unless the victims produced witnesses, and said victims had
consented to intercourse, the victims said.
The court order released late on Tuesday in Meru, 240km northeast
of Nairobi, said police contributed to a culture of tolerance for sexual
violence against girls.
"Perpetrators know they can commit crimes against
innocent children without fear of being apprehended and prosecuted," the
"The respondents showed disbelief, blamed the victims,
humiliated them, yelled at and ignored them."
Police who failed to enforce the law now risked arrest,
fines and imprisonment, said a lawyer for the girls, Fiona Sampson of The
Equality Effect, an international legal rights network.
"It is a huge victory for the individual girls and for
girls across Kenya and, I would say, Africa," she said.
The Equality Effect is supporting similar claims in Ghana
and Malawi, and has been approached by groups in Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia and
the Democratic Republic of Congo asking for legal assistance to initiate cases.
One in five women and girls are victims of sexual violence
in Kenya, according to a 2008/09 government survey. Rape is rarely reported due
to stigma and lack of faith in the justice system, although there are strong
laws against sexual assault.