The Inspector General (IG) of Police Joseph Boinnet has rejected a report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) on rape by police officers over the 2017 poll period. “I challenge the organization (HRW) to produce evidence if such persons allegedly defiled by police officers indeed exist,” reads part of the statement sent to newsrooms by the IG.

The organization released a damning report that accused the Police of committing sexual abuses in the just concluded election period with sexual violence survivors being interviewed describing brutal gang rapes involving two or more attackers.

Speaking at the launch of a report titled “They were men in uniform: Sexual violence against women and girls in Kenya’s 2017 elections” Agnes Odhiambo a senior researcher said that at least 50 per cent of the women who were sexually violated said they were raped by policemen or men in uniform, many of whom carried guns, batons, teargas canisters, whips, and wore helmets and anti-riot gear.

“There was widespread sexual violence in Kenya’s 2017 elections with the majority being gang rape, mass rape, vaginal and anal rape, penetration with objects, dirt was inserted in their private parts and in at least one case, a girl died after being raped,” she said.

The HRW report, however, points out that one of the barriers to access to justice is police hostility towards the survivors who go to report the cases. “In some cases, the women who went to report sexual violence were chased away by the police without taking statements, ridiculed or verbally abused by them, or failed to follow up on complaints,” says the report.

“Only a few women who were interviewed reported to the Police because of the low confidence they have in the force. The government should create an enabling environment for the victims to come out and report the rape cases,” the report noted. Out of the 71 cases the organization investigated, half of the sexual violence survivors implicated the police.

One woman who said she was raped in the presence of police, along with five other women, described the frustration they went through when they tried to report the attack. “They asked, ‘How do you know they were police?’ They said, ‘If you had been raped you would have gone to the hospital first. Where is the evidence? How can we believe you?’ They told us we must have enjoyed the rape,” notes the report.

Some of the survivors who were interviewed said they suffered incapacitating physical injuries or experienced other health consequences that left some unable to work or care for their families. “A 27-year-old woman interviewed had given birth on August 7, and was raped by three policemen on August 11,” Odhiambo said.