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More than one million protest Kenya leniency on rape

petition-against-rape

More than one million protest Kenya leniency on rape

Source: FRANCE 24

More than one million people have signed a petition demanding justice after three of six men accused of brutally raping a Kenyan teenager before dumping her in a ditch were ordered only to cut grass in punishment before being set free.

More than one million people have signed a petition demanding justice after three of six men accused of brutally raping a Kenyan teenager before dumping her in a ditch were ordered only to cut grass in punishment before being set free.

The vicious attack on the 16-year-old, known only by the psudonym Liz, and the lack of action against those responsible has sparked outrage in the country.

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.

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

On Monday the number of those who signed an online petition started by Nebila Abdulmelik, who works for a women's rights group in Kenya, and publicised by the campaign group Avaaz, passed the one million mark and was continuing to grow.

'Shameful response' by police

"Letting rapists walk free after making them cut grass has to be the world's worst punishment for rape," Abdulmelik told AFP. "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 a local paper.

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

"I want my attackers arrested and punished," she said.

Lawmakers have condemned the attack and the subsequent police failure, ordering further 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 instructions from the office of the director of public prosecution. 

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

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 said.

"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," she said.