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Sexual violence continues to represent the most rapidly growing violent crimes in Kenya, claiming a victim every two minutes. Naivasha town and its environs is a rape hotspot – with children and women being the most frequent victims.

. About half of all rapes and sexual assaults against women and children are committed by friends, family members and even young boys. It has been estimated that 80% of the rapists are known to the victims.

Recently a two-year-old girl was reported to have been defiled by two boys between the ages of five and six. The mother of the girl, Nancy who is a hairdresser, was said to have left her daughter playing with other children outside her salon. Three hours later she heard her daughter crying and rushed out to check on her only to find her bleeding. After a hospital checkup, it was confirmed that objects had been used in her private parts causing severe injuries.

In a similar case, a four-year-old girl was raped by her 45-year old uncle three years ago. The girl’s mother, said the rapist was arrested and released after a week. She claimed that after seeking help from a women’s rights organization, the case was followed up for a short time. However, the rapist has since been seen around the neighborhood, back to normal life.

There have also been reported cases of rich men who sleep with their daughters in Nyamathi village, 15km away from Naivasha town, and actually brag to their friends about it. According to Jacinta Wangui Kamau, the area councilor, she finds it disturbing that people easily accept it as a way of life as they do not find anything wrong with these incestuous relationships.

The story of a 15year old girl who was repeatedly defiled by her father is still fresh on the minds of those that came across this case. She has been taken to the Safe House in Naivasha, a place where abused children are temporarily kept for some time before they are relocated. The girl, who had been living with her father and stepmother at their rural home was defiled by her father on several occasions before she reported it to some neighbors. The neighbors upon hearing the story wrote a letter to the girl’s school, which was confirmed at the hospital. Her father was arrested but released on bond.

The project manager of Safe House, Anne Mativo, said that they took the girl in after the incident happened in mid-July this year and made arrangements for her to attend a primary school in Naivasha since she was about to sit her Kenya Certificate for Primary Education (KCPE) exam.

This arrangement had to be changed when the girl once met her father her way back from school. She could not go to school after that encounter: “We started coaching her here and she did her exams at the school, but we still want to keep her for some time for counseling before we relocate her to another guardian as she is still traumatized,” said Mativo.

Cases of abuse have been reported in flower farms over the past years. Some time back employees were required to report to work as early as 5am and close at 6pm, putting them at risk. Men who knew the women’s route to work would attack them on the way, abuse them sexually and thereafter give them money and other gifts to shut them up. Speaking on some of the problems women face in flower farms, the Assistant Human Resource Manager for flower farm Sher Agency, Mr. John Lwakala said the women were also vulnerable to sexual harassment from male colleagues.

High poverty levels and unemployment push women into a tight corner to give in to demands from male colleagues and mangers in order to keep their jobs. When Sher Agency realized that this behaviour was taking its toll on productivity, they invested in training peer educators to disseminate information on gender equity issues in the workplace.

Employees were now required to form their own study groups and allocated up to 45 hours a week to hold discussions. The main purpose of this peer education is to realize behavior changes for better attitudes between colleagues. Five managers and six supervisors were dismissed, and for the past three years since the committee has been in operation, women are reporting fewer cases of sexual harassment, manipulation and child abuse. Workers now report for work at 7.00 am and leave at 4.00 pm. Women now know their rights better and also know that they do not have to trade to sex for money and jobs.

The Officer Commanding Station (OCS) of Naivasha Police Station, Grace Kakai said all cases are thoroughly investigated and evidence gathered before action is taken: “Some social workers complain their clients were raped but when we do the investigations we realize it could be a fabrication. They usually refuse to take the case to court and ask to be paid. They are taking advantage of the situation,” she said.

According to Dr David Omega of Sher Hospital on the flower farm, domestic violence has reduced drastically because men who beat up their wives have their accounts charged when their wives are treated.

All Sher employees normally receive free medical treatment at the hospital. He added that in a month about four cases are reported, as compared to before.

Dr Omega says the crime of rape is fueled by the overcrowded living conditions and rampant poverty in the area: “There is the issue of poverty and conflicts are bound to occur where people are overcrowded,” he assed.

Other officials at Sher Agency also attribute causes of rape to lack of information and education, unemployment which in turn leads to drug abuse. They are also concerned about reckless life styles in the manner of socializing, anger and mixed signals. Most idlers are said to be the main criminals behind most rape cases, but this does not exclude working men with families who are among the residents surrounding the flower farms.

Mixed signals and miscommunication is also seen as a cause of date rape in most of these societies. Women need to have the negotiating skills for navigating their relationships and is a is one area that needs to be enhanced in educating women on violence. The counselor from Naivasha, Jacinta Wangui Kamau said that women who keep changing their minds and unsure on what they want sends wrong signals to their men. They must set clear boundaries even before interaction begins.

Youth or gang rape are frequent in Naivasha. These are young but sexually mature people who are testing their puberty in a perverse way. In some circles, gang rape is a kind of initiation rite into the group and this is a growing trend that worries counselors and the police.

When teenagers and young boys are idle they try out things they wouldn’t otherwise do and pick up habits from peers. In trying to understand what causes rape and have solutions to them, the government should put more funds towards education; it has to start from there. Education should go hand-in-hand with health because these street boys cannot learn on hungry stomachs, which should also be an incentive to get them into the classrooms.