Several dozen women in Kenya maintain police officers attacked them during this year’s election season and some said they were raped by men in uniform, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
More than 70 people were killed in an election in August, later nullified by the Supreme Court, and a repeat presidential poll in October won by President Uhuru Kenyatta. The opposition boycotted the repeat poll and said it would not be fair.
The sexual attacks, mostly on women, occurred over this period in Nairobi slums and in two opposition strongholds, Kisumu and Bungoma, in western Kenya, HRW said in a report.
Kenyan police dispute rights groups’ allegations that officers used excessive force to quell election-related unrest. They did not respond to a request from Reuters for comment on the report.
A 28-year-old woman in Mathare told Reuters: “Four men in police uniform burst into my home where my children were sleeping, they pulled my husband out. One grabbed my neck, the other pulled off my clothes, another beat me with a stick and the other forced sex on me.”
The woman who did not want to be identified said she was four months pregnant and miscarried shortly after the rape. “I was bleeding and confused afterwards,” she said.
Another woman, aged 26, said: “Two men dragged me away from my friend, stripped off my clothes and one raped me as the other held me down.”
“Kenyan women who have been raped are lonely, abandoned and ashamed,” said HRW researcher Agnes Odhiambo. “It’s the Kenyan government who should feel shame for failing to protect them and help with medical treatment.”
Kenyan rights groups accuse police of brutality and extrajudicial killings.
A government civilian watchdog tasked to oversee police exists, but few officers are charged and convictions are rare.
The sexual violence mirrored widespread violations against women after a disputed 2007 vote, when 1,200 people were killed, HRW said. At the time, the group documented at least 900 cases of sexual violence but said this was an under-estimate.
“The cases related to the August and October 2017 elections demonstrate a disturbing continuum,” Tina Alai, a lawyer with New York-based Physicians for Human Rights, said.
“Police continue to perpetrate sexual violence against civilians they are obligated to protect,” she said.