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Department — international relations, topic :“Sexual violence in East Africa: The reasons for its prevalence and the failure of the criminal justice system response. Essay Example

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Executive Summary

Over the centuries, there have been increased cases of sexual violence against women in East Africa and it has been observed that there are some factors that contribute to this situation. For instance, it has been established that law enforcement agencies to not respond with swiftness whenever there is the need to respond to sexual harassment of women in east Africa (Bass et al. 2013). The judicial system has also not been effective in the manner in which it handles sexual violence cases. This has been worsened by the fact that most East African countries are developing countries where there is low availability of resources that facilitate the fight against sexual harassment. For instance, there is low empowering of the police to control sexual violence. In addition, the residents of East African countries are affected by conditions such as poverty, lack of resource, male cultural values towards women and lack of education (Bell and Goodman 2001). This has resulted into high incidences of sexual violence such as rape, HIV/AIDS infection and increased teenage pregnancies or unwanted pregnancies. The main countries that have been significantly affected by these situations are Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. This paper investigates the situation of sexual harassment in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda with the focus on establishing areas of weakness in the process of implementing security measures aimed at protecting women from sexual harassment or rape. In addition, it illustrates how the judicial systems of these countries have failed to tackle issues relating to sexual harassment or those accused of being involved in rape cases in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

Part A: Background

  1. Meaning of rape and sexual assault

Rape is the process where a person is subjected to sexual relations without the consent of the person. In addition, rape has been defined as the process of making sexual contact with another person without the consent of that person. It is mainly exercised against women and girls due to the fact that men are the main perpetrators of these forms of violence against women (Bennet et al. 2004). In rare occasions have women been involved in perpetrating sexual assault against men. Sexual violence is defined as any exploitation act, gesture or contact that is sexual in nature that is undesired, or undertaken without the approval of an individual, and is executed through duress, intimidation, trickery, threats or physical force (Eboe-Osuji 2012). From the atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan and Northern Congo through the Rwanda genocide horrors and rape camps of Bosnia, the count of body bags is just matched with another ugly static: the number of women who were subjected to sexual violence in Bosnia is approximately 50000 (Campbell 2006; Cesario et al. 2014). The most significant issue that surrounds rape is consent. It is recommended that people should not be involved in sexual activity unless the parties involved have given their individual consents. When the consent is given in duress, then it is not a free consent and if another person is physically affected as a result of alcohol, the use of drugs and considered incapable of consenting to sex with the person consenting under duress is considered rape. Based on the location of the place where rape has taken place, a person who is aged below 16 years has legal obligation to consent to sex with another person (Kennedy and Patrick 2014). Sexual contact is regarded as a statutory rape despite lack of knowledge of the perpetrator. When one party does not have the ability to consent due to disability caused by age, drugs and alcohol, the act of making sexual contact with the person is equal to subjecting the person to rape. A similar abuse was suffered by 40 per cent of Liberia’s citizens over a period of 14 years. In 2000, merely less than half of those interviewed in a random exploration within Sierra Leone had suffered rape- in reality those gang raped exceeds a quarter (Baaz, & Stern, 2013; Campbell et al. 2001).

According to the United Nations’ Institute for Research and Training (INSTRAW), sexual assault is entrenched in present attitudes, norms and behavior in the centre of sexuality and gender (Constantino et al. 2005). What is considered to define this violence is the present definitions and norms of what it implies to be a man or a woman, and the way women and men are positioned in relation to one another. Such definitions as well as norms promote and even uphold brutal conduct in settings that dispense hierarchical supremacy and privileges to particular category of people (Chang et al. 2005; Cornwall 2001). Sexual violence mostly inclines to the female gender as they make up a significant percentage of those who are abused and thus can be related to gender based violence. For this reason it can be seen as an execution of structural inequalities in addition to power hierarchies established and supported by processes of socialization, cultural norms and belief systems (Baaz and Stern 2013; Colombini et al. 2012).

  1. Picture of rape in East Africa compared to the UK

There are many ways in which sexual violence and rape are experienced by residents of East African countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. When the picture of sexual violence in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda is compared to that of the UK, it is found that the authorities within East Africa have abandoned their role as the protectors of freedoms and essential rights of the citizens of the region compared to the care provided by the UK authorities towards the citizens of the UK (Contreras et al. 2010; Cook et al. 2004). This does not imply that there have been no attempts to deter sexual violence but such attempts have been a disappointment as they have failed to address the problem in question. On the other hand, the UK government has been effective in its effort to control sexual violence by ensuring the perpetrators are brought to book (McCabe 2007). For instance, those arrested of sexual violence in the UK have been sentenced to imprisonment while in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, most people convicted of sexual violence receive lenient prosecution that can lead to their acquittal (Mutua 2009). This has significantly increased their motivation to involve in sexual violence even after they have been arrested. When the judicial systems of East African countries are compared with that of the UK, it is found that there is a high level of inefficiency in the East African judicial system which results into high chances of acquittal of a person who has been convicted of involvement in sexual violence (Fitzpatrick, 1995). This is not the case in the UK where the judicial system has clearly defined laws on how a person convicted of sexual violence should be tried in court. The judicial system of East African countries have failed to speed up policy, administrative as well as legislative approaches that can lessen the suffering and pain of the victims of sexual violence (Coulthard et al. 2010; Crespo et al. 2010). The respective law making bodies in East Africa have failed to comprehensively amend the laws in existence so as to enhance justice in a way that is admirable. Additionally, there exist no legal measures or official policies that have the capacity to guarantee compensation to the victims of sexual violence. The system of criminal justice has, to this point, intensively focused on persons accused, not taking into consideration the costs of the assailant’s action that may comprise of death, unwanted pregnancy, maiming, HIV infection and other diverse health hitches (Crocker, D. 1999; Weissbrodt and Fraser 1992). Whereas the system of traditional criminal justice provokes a paradigm shift when dealing with cases of sexual violence through giving direct compensation to victims, such reparations are not always sufficient in any way. Such frameworks do not necessarily focus on easing the conditions of the victim but rather holds onto the notion of ‘benefit’ to the victim and the family (De Greiff 2006; Gielen et al. 2000). Whereas the East African countries are party to various international treaties that possess superior provisions, in regard to eradication of sexual violence, the region has lacked the competence to convert such into local decrees. The justice system have been hesitant in using the already approved international implements in interpretation of the cases reported (Rescott and Madsen 2011; Gondolf E. 2003).In addition, when the level of cultural beliefs are compared among East African communities with that of the UK, it is found that cultural beliefs of most East African communities enhance the chances of sexual violence against women compared with the cultural beliefs of the residents of the UK (Karanja, 2003). This is because most people in the UK live modern lifestyles that do not include practices such as wife inheritance and also ensures women have equal rights to property ownership and protection as men (Rescott & Madsen 2011). On the other hand, most East African communities consider women to be subordinate to men. This exposes them to the possibility of being sexually violated by men. For instance, they are considered to be less able to make most decisions in the family such as ability to consent to sexual contact with a man who is considered the head of the family.

In Uganda, the legal system is structured in such a way that there are long procedures that are followed when a person is convicted of rape. These include police investigations that may take longer time, pre-trial investigation as well as investigation that takes place during trial. During these activities, the accused person has high opportunities of escaping being prosecuted fairly in based on the severity of the crime (Schenck-Gustafsson 2012). This results from the readiness of Ugandan judges and police investigators to receive bribe so that they can dismiss a case. This has acted as an inspiration for most people accused of rape cases. Due to high rates of release of such individuals, they have continued to terrorise women and subject them to sexual violence which results into rape (Spitzer, Twikirize & Wairire 2014). For instance, it has been observed that many soldiers of the Lords Resistance Army raped a number of women and terrorised them in villages during political campaigns while the judiciary did not make the effort to ensure the perpetrators are held accountable for their actions.

It is also found that most people in the UK are educated and well enlightened on their rights. Thus, women are aware of the rights they have as well as the actions they need to take while courts and police are ready to listen to their complaints in case of sexual harassment or rape. On the other hand, East African citizens have a majority of people living in rural areas and are not well educated (Fleming et al. 1999). Consequently, they do not have the knowledge about their rights in the society and when subjected to sexual violation, they do not take the necessary steps to seek redress in court or do not report to police. A survey conducted in Rwanda in 2010 showed that 2 out of 5 rape cases are likely to be unreported because the affected person does not know the legal procedures to follow or the action to take due to lack of education.

  1. Criminal justice system in response to rape in East Africa

Over the years, a number of women, several children and just a few me have gone through the burden unpleasant cultural customs that propagate sexual violence (Pederson & Skrondal 1996). Sexual based violence within East Africa is gender based as mostly it is women and children who are mostly affected. Intermittent violence trends within East Africa, especially before and after elections with the most notable case being in Kenya after the 2007 General Election, have led to defilement, rape as well as gang rape of several children and women (Baaz, and Stern, 2013; Bass J. Et al. 2013).

This study reveals the failures of the justice system in dealing with such cases of sexual violence. The agencies of law enforcement reacts late or in most cases they do not even react at all and in the cases where they respond no concrete output is felt (Bernath and Gahongayire, 2013). This it to imply that many cases are always dismissed as a result of weak legal frameworks to deal with sexual violence. In most cases, the culprits always walk scot free (Bell and Goodman 2001). The victims thus always continue suffering when they continuously come across the same perpetrators who destroyed their lives but nothing has been done to them yet in an attempt to get justice (Rescott & Madsen, 2011).

A number of authorities within East Africa are found to be clumsy, unmoved, or complacent when dealing with the highlighted cases. In actual fact, a number of severe cases of sexual violence within some places in East Africa have failed to be conclusively addressed (Bennet et al. 2004; Bowen et al. 2005; Burgess 2012). What has been witnessed in the region is a failed justice framework as those concerned have been unsuccessful in addressing the troubles of the sexual violence survivors. This is evidence based as there exists comparatively a few number of convictions compared to cases that have always been reported (Mutua, 2009).

In Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, the legal systems are obliged with the responsibility of ensuring those convicted of involvement in rape or sexual harassment of women are prosecuted and if convicted, they should be imprisoned. For instance in Uganda, those convicted of rape can be sentenced to 10 years in prison or charged for the physical and emotional destabilisation of the victim (Olsson et al.2000). However, the investigation process is usually affected by increased rates of bribery of the judges which affect the ability of the courts to deal adequately with the crime among its populations (Jewkes, Penn-Kekana & Levin 2002). Another limitation of the legal systems of East African countries such as Rwanda in controlling sexual offences is that there is leniency of prosecution of sexual offenders. In some situations, the affected person can be referred for cultural settlement by local leaders who are usually not efficient in providing the right level of punishment when a person is found guilty. In some cases, the complainants have asked courts to withdraw cases against the accused persons (Omorodion & Olusanya 1998). This has inspired them to continue with the crime despite its illegality in Rwanda. There is also a limited level of witness protection in Kenya and most people who witness sexual violence cases fear reporting or testifying the occurrence of sexual offences because they will not be accorded the right level of protection so that they can be safe (Faune 1997). This results into the fear that the accused person can retaliate by causing either physical harm or destruction of property of the witness.

The focus of this paper is to provide the status of sexual violence in East Africa within the context of Kenya, Uganda and Rwandese police and judicial systems in dealing with cases of sexual violence. The status of sexual violence in East Africa is explained in comparison with the status of sexual violence in other countries such as the UK. It also provides various factors that have contributed to increased sexual violence in the three East African countries. This is achieved by explaining the contribution of factors such as poverty, lack of resources, lack of education and male cultural values that disempower women to have control over what can happen to them in terms of individual protection and being subjected to cultural laws that subject them to sexual abuse. These instances enable understanding why sexual violence situation has significantly escalated in East Africa.

Part B: General Reasons for rape in East Africa

  1. Lack of Natural Resources

The fight against sexual violence requires resources of various kinds. These include communication gadgets as well as friendly neighbourhood such as neighbours and being in an area where there is a good transport and communication system. In addition, there are resources required by the police departments and the judicial systems so that they can contribute towards control of sexual violence in the region (Fallon 2008). In most East African countries, people are confined to areas where there are low quantities of resources such as good transport and communication facilities and there are few resources that can be used to empower the police with the ability to control rape in the areas that are prone to sexual violence against women. (Guedes 2004). It is normally complex to confront impunity of sexual violence that have taken place during conflict for the reason that the perpetuators as well perpetrators often assume influential positions in governments considered to be post conflict (Mutua, 2009; Goodmark, L. 2004). When compared with developed countries such as the UK, it is found that most East African countries residences do not have a number of resources that ensure sexual violence cases are reported in the right time. For instance, most families do not have communication gadgets such as mobile handsets and they are less familiar with the police. This is contrary to the UK where most families are able to contact the police by use of mobile handsets and emergency numbers. Thus, lack of resources has been a contributing factor to increased rape case in East Africa compared with the UK.

Poor training of the police in regard to investigations of sexual violence irritates the capacity of the prosecution agencies in securing convictions within East Africa (Pitsch, 2002; Murungi 2003). This is based on the fact that most East African countries do not have enough resources that can be input into place training and recruitment. As a result, the police are not equipped with the competence which enables them fight sexual violence against women in an affective manner. In most cases the court systems have remained insensitive to the difficulties of the victims of sexual violence and even gender based assault (Farr 2009). The judicial systems have been affected by lack of enough resources in terms of financial support from the governments so that more judges can be trained to provide prosecution for those implicated in sexual violence and there is the general lack of organization in the judicial systems in the process of controlling sexual violence in the East African societies. Instead of giving front considerations for humanitarian deliberations, number of medical personnel emphasize on financial considerations before they file P-3 forms and other documents necessary for statutory reporting (Heise, 1999; Jewkes 2002). It is important to note that it is these are the same documents that are vital in sustenance of court cases and because it is hard to process them by victims who are financially underprivileged justice remains obscure in the end for a number of victims within the region (Baaz and Stern 2013).

. The motivation is not there thus they are not able to avoid unethical practices like such. Bribery of the police in Kenya has majorly been attributed to the low wages as well as the poor living standards of the police, all these is as a result of inadequate resources. This lack of resources has greatly failed the justice system thus victims of sexual violence do not get the justice they deserve. In a way this lack of resources is to a significant extent the fault of the respective governments of the East African countries (Malamud-Goti 1995). There is poor prioritization within the government thus allocation of resources within the police units is always inappropriate. This is to imply that security is not always a priority as stated by the governments of these countries. As much as reports emerging from these governments indicating expected improvement in this, no tangible outcome indicates the same (Fitzpatrick 1995). With no adequate resources to facilitate the pursuit of sexual offenders, sexual violence will still remain a prevalent issue. Proper investigation of sexual violence calls for adequate resources but this has never been the case in the countries under study, i.e. the East African countries. The sexual offenders continue to terrorize their offenders with the knowledge that the resources available are not sufficient to pursue them (Zalaquett 1992). This is a sad tale for countries that should be putting more effort to guarantee the security of their citizens. Lack resources can subsequently be attributed to the misappropriation of funds by the government officials especially in the ministry of security. The government officials holding these offices have a number of times been charged with embezzlement of public funds which could have been directed to replenish the resources in the police force (Karanja 2003). Research indicates that continuations of such trends are to increase crimes within the East African countries thus sexual violence is also to increase. There have been calls from a number of activists to ensure a change in this but the government continues to make promises which are unfulfilled in the long run.McCabe 2007). This is to mean that they have all the required resources needed but the efforts made are significant. Resources in this context subsequently imply to the remuneration packages of the police officers. Theses lead to flaws during pursuit of sexual offenders and other criminals. The existing literature review, in regard to the research topic, shows that many sexual offenders escape punishment after bribing the police. It is important to indicate that the major cause of such acts of corruption is the insufficient salary packages given to the police officers (Marshall 2005). Some remote areas can’t be accessed by the available vehicles thus there is need for choppers. Mobility and accessibility is a major factor in the pursuit of any criminal but this seems not to be realized in East Africa. In developed countries such as the USA and the United Kingdom, studies indicate that the mobility of the police force is given priority as even choppers are provide to the force to enhance in the movement (Lifton 2003). Studies that have been carried out in the recent past indicate appalling work conditions the police are force to work under. This has something that has even been highlighted by the COTU organization which is a workers union in Kenya. This is something that the government is aware of and according to them restructuring is underway. This is the same scenario even in Uganda and Tanzania where the resources to help in investigation are not adequate. Taking for instance the police vehicles; such are not adequate and even the available are not well maintained to help in pursuit of sexual offenders even in the remote areas (Larose 2005)The failed justice system in relation to the sexual violence in East Africa can be greatly attributed to the lack of resources especially within the police force. Resources in this context are dimensional as it refers to all the facilities and products needed to keep enhance the pursuit of sexual offenders (Guedes 2004). The outcome exhibited in the African countries i.e. Kenya Uganda, Tanzania and even Burundi in regard to the lack of resources is almost similar. In Kenya for example the police resources are depleted and even the available few are largely non operational. The pursuit of cases related to sexual violence is always an intensive one in terms of the needed resources as well as the work load. This lack of resources is a de-motivating factor across the East African Nations thus should be looked upon before the situation even comes worse (

Another facet of lack of natural resources in the effort to control sexual harassment against women has been conflict. Many families in East Africa such as Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda experience conflicts of various forms such as rape, sexual slavery, under-age pregnancy and unwanted pregnancy (Kahn 2008). They are also exposed to practices such as female genital mutilation, large-scale contamination with HIV/AIDS and being displaced from their areas of residences.

It has been observed that there are legal frameworks in Kenya that determine actions that need to be taken for an individual who has engaged in sexual harassment or sexual abuse of a woman (Kristof and Sheryl 2009). This has mainly been illustrated in the newly promulgated constitution which states the actions that courts need to take against a person who has been convicted of sexually abusing a woman. For instance, the Kenyan law prohibits coercive inheritance of a woman and restriction of a widowed woman from remarrying. While these laws are applicable, these practices have continued because the governments of East African countries do not have enough resources that can facilitate the fight against sexual violence and those who are involved in such activities are either neglected unpunished or freed when convicted of involvement in such acts (Bernath and Gahongayire 2013). As a result, they have been inspired to continue with the same acts of sexually harassing women. For instance, a resident of Kisumu which is located in western part of Kenya reported that when a person reports a rape case, the person is likely to be put off or the matter can be referred to an area chief to solve (Bowen et al. 2005). Chiefs are in most cases biased in their judgements and are also likely to be bribed so that they can dismiss a case. In some cases, the chiefs are chauvinists and they ask women to persevere saying that even the women who were born before them persevered.

  1. Impacts of Poverty

Poor women and girls may be subjected to high risks or rape in the course of their daily activities compared with those who are better off. For instance, they are likely to walk home individually from work late at night or work in fields or be involved in firewood collection on their own (Burgess 2012). Children born from poor parents are less supervised by their parents when they are not at school due to the fact that their parents may be involved in employment environment and less able to provide them with child care. The children may also be working in various employment levels thus being subjected to sexual exploitation.

Poverty is a factor that forces a number of women and girls into occupations where they are subjected to sexual violence such as when they are involved in sex work (Campbell 2006). It also results into enormous pressure for them to find and maintain jobs, be involved in pursuant of trading activities and when they are involved in studies, they are affected and cannot get high grades (Campbell et al. 2001). These circumstances render them vulnerable to being coerced to sex by those who promise them these things. Women from poor families are also subjected to the risks of being sexually violated by their husbands.

All countries in East Africa are known to be third world countries that are not endowed with enough resources so that a greater percentage of its population can live above the poverty line. As a result, poverty has been a factor that has contributed to increased cases of rape in the region (Cesario et al. 2014). Poverty is widespread in East African countries and it is estimated that the most affected people in East Africa are those who live in the rural areas. Violence continues as much as women live in poor conditions in their neighbourhoods. When a woman is not economically independent, the abusive partner may take advantage of her low economic situation to subject her to sexual exploitation (Chang et al. 2005). In addition, the existing means that facilitate enforcement of a person’s right to freedom from violence require money for a number of functions that include transportation, representation as well as additional costs during the legal procedures (Cornwall 2001). Violence and poverty, therefore, generally contribute to entrapment of women in difficulties. Lack of equality in power relations between men and women resulting from patriarchy has resulted into the difficulties being experienced by women in the efforts to get access to resources such as land, cattle, money and other resources that raise their economic statuses (Popkin and Roht-Arriaza 1995). A number of studies demonstrate a strong association between the socio-economic status of households and risks of being subjected to gender-based violence.

In Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, efforts have been made by ensuring those implicated of involvement in sexual violence against women or rape are prosecuted and when found guilty charged accordingly (Colombini et al. 2012). In addition, the investigation of sexual violence offences are usually held with greater concern and the constitutions of all the East African countries are designed so that they specify the nature of punishment that a convicted person should be subjected to. There has also been increased surveillance of the community such as slum areas where crime rates are common and sexual violence are likely to be experienced (Constantino et al. 2005). The police have been instrumental in ensuring women are not terrorised in areas that have been marked as insecure. In addition, Kenyan, Ugandan and Rwandese police have been trained adequately on methods of investigating cases of sexual violence and rape cases so that perpetrators of the actions are usually convicted.

While there have been efforts aimed at ensuring sexual violence cases are addressed by the actions of police, there has been increased cases of failure of the police to address this social challenge in East Africa (Contreras et al. 2010). An example of a reason why the police have not been efficient in controlling sexual offences is that most people in East Africa are affected by poverty and do not have resources such as transport costs to police stations so that they can report sexual harassment cases or they tend to avoid reporting the cases due to the fear of being implicated (Cook et al. 2004). Another reason why the police have not been effective in addressing sexual harassment offences is that most police in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are corrupt in the process of investigating sexual harassment offences. When an accused person gives the police a bribe, the police withdraw the cases and the perpetrators go unpunished (Coulthard et al. 2010). This has greatly inspired the offenders to continue with the act. This is severed by the fact that most people are poor in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and there is difficulty in getting the bribe to give to police so that their cases can be investigated.

  1. Lack of Education

Lack of education as a contributing factor to increased sexual violence against residents of East African countries can be viewed from a number of perspectives (Reno 2000). These can include the unwillingness of the judicial systems to enlighten the public about their rights when subjected to sexual violence, lack of public education about the need to report sexual violence and lack of police education on the approaches to be used in case someone has been subjected to sexual violence (Crespo et al. 2010). It can also be viewed in terms of the impact of level of education as a determining factor whether a person will be able to report sexual violence or not. Women have bee identified to be at the greatest risk of sexual violence as they are subjected to physical violence by their partners especially when they are educated and are considered to be a threat to male empowerment (Crocker 1999). Women who are less educated or not educated at all are found in national survey of Kenya to be less likely to report incidences of sexual violence compared with those who are highly educated. In Uganda, women who have higher levels of education or who are in formal employment positions are more likely to report forced sex by a partner compared to those who are not. The reason that has been frequently suggested is that when women are empowered, they become more resistant to patriarchal norms and men are likely to resort to violence in the effort to ensure they have control over them (Weissbrodt and Fraser 1992). The association between empowerment and physical violence is an inverted U-shaped where those who are greatly empowered are subjected to greater risks up to a particular level, beyond which they become more protective.

Furthermore, there has been inefficiency in provision of public education about the rights of women to be protected from sexual violence by men. Most women and girls in East African countries live in rural areas where they are not enlightened on their rights to report cases of sexual harassment by their partners or people in the neighbourhood (De Greiff 2006). Some women in East Africa believe that policemen are so unfriendly to them that they cannot approach them so that they can report sexual harassment. Due to high illiteracy level in most East African countries, most women are not aware of the role that the constitution plays in protecting them from sexual violence (Gielen et al. 2000). As a result, they ado not know whether their rights have been violated by being sexually harassed. This acts as a motivation for the perpetrator to continue the practice.

Another area where sexual violence is common in most regions in East Africa are work places and schools where complaints by employees have illustrated the manner I which male collages subject women to sexual harassment (Krug 2002). Irrespective of the data collection methods, the exact number of women who are harassed is expected to increase in the near future. While studies have been conducted in developing countries to understand the cases of sexual violence at workplaces, these studies have been brief and they do not give sufficient information to illustrate the exact situation (Zalaquett 1992). Violence has also been experienced institutions such as correctional centres but there has been an inadequate study to establish the exact status of violence in such institutions. For instance, violence against women in correctional centres and prisons are not readily available.

  1. Male Cultural Values

Everyone can suffer from sexual violence but it is important to note that it is the female gender that is mostly affected in many parts of the world. It is important to highlight that violation of women has been normalized in a number of parts of the world and this even intensifies during wars and internal conflict (Reno 2000; Meena 1998). This is so even in regions where the legal institutions and systems are considered to be sound, strong and operational (Malamud-Goti 1995; Fitzpatrick 1995). A number of communities within the East African region have been found to be endorsing, practicing and normalizing different kinds of sexual assault against the female gender and such abuse comprises of virginity testing, forced or early marriages and female genital mutilation (Saikal 2000; Adebayor 2003). The price related to chastity of a female gender is extremely huge that even in a scenario where she is a victim of sexual abuse, the characteristic society reaction is to stigmatize and quarantine her (Zalaquett 1992; Karanja 2003). The defamation as well as humiliation associated with sexual violence, and the tolerant punishments dished out to the assailants in both traditional and formal justice frameworks has played a part in increasing the prevalence rate of sexual violence (Baaz, & Stern, 2013).

Most cultures and traditions that are existing in most parts of the world i.e. the East African region do not take sexual violence as a crime against humanity. This is even worse in cases where the victims are women (Popkin and Roht-Arriaza, 1995; Hayner, Priscilla 1994). The cultures and traditions of various communities have made it difficult to do away with this menace of sexual violence as most of these events are always assumed and victims silenced (Mutua, 2009). Another facet of culture that promotes sexual violence is social ostracization. This is the belief that men do not have the ability to control their sexual urges and that have the responsibility to provoke sexual desire in men. The reaction of families and communities to acts of rape in such circumstances is determined by the existing ideas about sexuality and the status of women.

In a number of societies, the cultural solution to rape is that the woman should be married to a man who has raped her, thus ensuring the integrity of the woman is preserved when the union is legitimized (Gielen et al. 2000). Such a solution is reflected in a number of communities in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, where men can be excused of crime provided they marry the victim of rape (Gondolf 2003). In addition to marriage, families are subjected to pressure where the affected woman may be required not to report or pursue a case or else concentrate on seeking compensation from the family of the rapist. Men are allowed to reject their wives when they have been raped and in Uganda, a woman who has been raped can be cast out from the community as a way of cleansing the community.

There are other cultural practices that increase chances of sexual harassment against women in the society. For instance, wife battering has been a common practice in most societies in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. It is the process where a person is subjected to physical beatings, with fists and other objects, choking, stabbing and other forms of physical violence afflicted by the husband (Meena 1998). An example of a contributing factor to battering is that there is tolerance by law of ‘chastisement’ of wives by their husbands there is difficulty in drawing a line between what is accepted as a mere chastisement and what is not. Furthermore, there is a limitless right by most husbands and fathers to chastise members of their families as well as their wives flowing from the fact that they are the undisputed heads of their families (Saikal 2000). In most societies in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, violence against women by their husbands and boyfriends are witnessed in various levels of the society irrespective of the age, education level, ethnic background, colour or occupation. Surprisingly, a number of women who are subjected to these forms of violence do not report the occurrences (Adebayor 2003). In the East African society, a female person who has been battered by her partner may decline to report the person to the authorities because he is the sole family provider and the family can be greatly affected if the person is arrested (Pitsch 2002). In most circumstances, she may blame herself for the incidents that have taken place and also promise to behave well next time.

Another cultural practice that has been common in most East African societies is female genital mutilation (FGM). It is s form of female circumcision that is performed as a traditional practice among a number of populations in most African countries (Murungi 2003). There are various forms of female genital mutilation practices that range from removal of the clitoris hood to fibulation which involves the removal of the external genitalia followed by closing the wound. The country where FGM has been common among communities is Kenya. For instance, among the Samburu community, a girl who is about to be married must be circumcised before she can be allowed to get married (Heise 1999). The proponents of the tradition suggested that it is the most important rite of passage to adulthood where the child acquires societal values. From this case, it is noted that most young men were willing to continue with the practice despite the fact that it has been condemned by modern organizations such as churches. However, when a woman is forcefully circumcised, it is similar to sexual harassment based on the nature of the operation that can even contribute to bodily harm to the affected individual (Jewkes 2002). Victims of forced FMG usually keep such secrets within the community rather than publicising them. This is a practice that is associated with a number of implications such as haemorrhage, tetanus, blood poisoning and in some cases HIV/AIDS infections.

Part C: Conclusion

From this paper, it can be concluded that the main contributing factor to sexual violence against women has been, the laxity in the police force and the legal systems of East African governments in the fight against sexual violence against women. This has mainly been illustrated by the fact that there are low reporting rates of violence against women as well as leniency in punishing those implicated in such crimes. It is found that these are the main contributing factors to rape and sexual violence against women in all the East African countries is investigated. It is significant to note that sexual violence cut across all genders; however it is even of much importance to note that women are the most affected and they are exhibited as helpless when it comes to sexual violence. Most of the perpetrators are always in a position to carry out the atrocities then go scot free as a result of the weak legal and justice systems.

Many observations have been made to try to explain why there has not been success in controlling rape cases against women in east Africa. For instance, it has been explained that governments of the respective countries have not been effective in coming up with laws that subject those implicated in rape cases to prosecution and in some cases, judges have not been provided with adequate powers to award compensation for those affected by sexual harassment or rape cases. It has also been observed that the judiciary systems of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda is mainly centred on the accused persons and not focusing on the consequences of the acts of the assailant, that may be inclusive of HIV infection, unwanted pregnancy as well as maiming the victim. A part from rape, there are other forms of violence that are experienced by women in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda such as arbitrary arrests, prolonged detention and infringement into the rights of the citizens by governments. There are also historical events that have escalated sexual violence and rape cases against women in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. For instance, in Kenya, during the post-election violence in 2008, many women were subjected to sexual violence and rape while in Rwanda, increased grenade attacks have resulted into increased cases of unrest which is a contribution factor to lack of security for women. Similar situations are common in Uganda.

This study has also shown that there has been a rise in sexual violence among the three nations of interest: Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda due to culture of the people of East Africa with regards to women. This is because; most East African cultures towards women are mainly aimed at disempowering them in a number of ways. This is contrary to the UK where it has been found that women are provided with equal rights as men. Diverse researchers tend to consider culture as the major cause of the sexual violence, particularly against women in the region. In addition, financial insecurity has been a critical factor in the increased cases of sexual violence, thus aiding the role of alcohol and drugs in instigating sexual violence against women in Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. Numerous researchers have focused on the assessment of gender-based violence, domestic violence, and sexual violence with reference to the cases of Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda.

Another observation that has been made in this paper is that sexual violence is a common and serious health problem that affects people in the public in various ways not only in East Africa, but also in other parts of the world. There are a number of factors that drive the situation such as social, cultural and economic contexts. The central point in sexual violence in the society is gender inequality. In a number of countries, information on a number of cases of sexual violence do not exist and it is necessary to conduct great research on sexual violence in various aspects. Of most importance are intervention measures such as a number of types, but significant ones concern basic intervention strategies that support victim assault, methods aimed at making the perpetrators caught and prosecuted, methods of ensuring social norms are changed and ensuring the statuses of women are changed. It is necessary to come up with interventions for resource-poor environments and rigorously come up with programs in both developing and developed countries. It is also important that health professionals should contribute significantly towards providing support to victims of sexual assault medically and also providing psychological support as well as collecting evidence that facilitate prosecution of perpetrators.

As a result of the above observations of the status of sexual violence in various East African countries, a number of recommendations have been made which should be implemented in the judicial and police systems of these countries. An example of a recommendation is that there should be a review of all East African countries by incorporating a provision that allows domestication of any international instrument when the countries ratify as part of regional laws. Any constitutional laws that encourage violence against women should be rectified and sections of the constitution that are discriminatory against women should be scraped off. In a similar manner, there should be a review of the language of constitution so that the principles of gender equity are illustrated in neutral manner and where possible terms such as man or woman should be avoided in representation cases. Another recommendation is that any form of rape irrespective of the age of the affected person should attract a maximum sentence of life or the person should be imprisoned. Another suggestion is that there should be an offence of statutory rape and an adult that forces a minor into sexual activity should be subjected to prosecution irrespective of the status of the person in the society. Another consideration that should be made in the penal codes of the East African countries is that rape or sexual violence should be defined to include cases of oral sex without consent, insertion of object into the vaginal orifices of the female as well as general lack of consensus to participate in the activity. During the process of formulating laws that prohibit sexual offences, there should be a clear distinction between consensual and non-consensual activity by ensuring non-consensual activity is punished. When it is found that there has been threatening cases before the victim is involved in sex with the offender, the offender should be charged of attempted murder. There should also be a reform in the general laws of all East African countries so that those who are affected do not have to follow long legal process before they are provided with legal assistance. Another recommendation is that the state should be committed towards providing shelter for those who are affected by sexual violence or spousal abuse. In the process of intervention for a case of domestic violence, it is suggested that training should be provided to police force so that they do not interrogate the affected person in front of the perpetrator as this can contribute to withdrawal from the case due to intimidation. Another recommendation is that training programs should be designed so that police and judiciary are able to deal with cases of sexual violence in an effective manner. The governments of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda should also set aside enough financial resources that enable the police and the judicial systems fight sexual violence in an effective manner. It is also recommended that women should be involved in planning assistance to refugees and also ensure all forms of discrimination based on gender are eliminated in the society. Cultural practices such as female genital mutilation should be prohibited and those involved in the activity should be prosecuted in a law court. However, this article provides a better understanding of the status of sexual violence in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. It contributes to understanding the reasons why there has been a failure of the justice and police systems in the fight against sexual violence. The main reasons that are explained include lack of resources, poverty, lack of education and male cultural beliefs towards women. However, it illustrates a number of recommendations that can ensure this practice is effectively managed in the society.


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