Nairobi - Several hundred Kenyan protestors marched on
police headquarters on Thursday to deliver a petition of over a million names
demanding justice after men accused of brutally gang raping a schoolgirl 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.
Protestors marched through the streets of the Kenyan capital
wearing T-shirts with the slogan "Justice for Liz", with activists
draping dozens of women's knickers along the fence of the police station.
"What do we want? Respect, respect, respect,
dignity!", the protestors shouted.
"Slashing grass is not punishment for rape", a
sign carried by a protestor read.
Nebila Abdulmelik, of the women's rights campaign group
Femnet, launched the petition on Monday.
"Our immediate task is for the arrest and prosecution
of the perpetrators, and then disciplinary action at the police who failed to
take action, because we feel that they embolden others to rape,"
"We are using Liz's story to bring to light all the
other cases of violence that are not necessarily reported to the media, to the
Victims of sexual violence
Over 1.3 million people worldwide have signed the petition,
which has been publicised by the online campaign group Avaaz, and the number
continues to climb.
Senior police officer William Thwere, who spoke to the
organisers of the march, promised police were "investigating this issue...
it will be dealt with the seriousness it deserves."
Liz 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.
"The three... were only ordered to cut grass around the
police camp and set free shortly after," the girl's mother told the Daily
Nation newspaper, which first reported the story and has led a campaign
including raising funds to cover medical costs.
"My wish is to see justice done," Liz also told
the newspaper. "I want my attackers arrested and punished."
Creg Akoto, a young man among the protestors who works for
an organisation that has set up a telephone hotline for victims of sexual
violence, criticised a system he said can favour the attackers.
"These are our sisters, our mothers, our grandparents
who are victims of sexual violence," he said.
Lawmakers have condemned the attack and subsequent police
failures, ordering action to be taken.
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