For many women and girls in Africa, getting justice for violence perpetrated against them continues to be an elusive dream. The barriers that impede access to justice are myriad but are all rooted in societal structures and social norms that define women and men’s interactions and experiences.
This month, the international community celebrates the World Day of International Justice. This historic day marks the establishment of the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the International Criminal Court which deals with war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression and genocide.
Violence against women (VAW) has been a key funding area for AWDF’s grant making with cases advocating to end VAW occupying the majority of our grant portfolio over the years.
Under AWDF’s new strategic framework (SFIV), tackling VAW continues to be a major pillar under the Bodily and Health Rights thematic area. Beyond our main grants, AWDF makes annual calls to fund organisations during the 16 days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (25th November – 10th December). Over the past 3 years, AWDF has funded several organisations working on VAW issues.
AWDF is proud of its grantee partner Ripples International, a women-led organisation that stands out in raising awareness and educating women and girls on their rights. Ripples International’s 160 girls Project goes beyond raising awareness and follows through to ensure that perpetrators of VAW are held accountable. With support from various donors including AWDF, Ripples International works to seek justice on behalf of sexually abused girls, usually under 18 years, and whose cases have either been improperly investigated or thrown out of court for lack of evidence or tampering with evidence.
Rape and sexual violence cases are particularly difficult to seek justice for. This fact makes it all the more extraordinary that Ripples International was not deterred by the difficult and frustrating nature of this case. After winning the ground-breaking case in 2013 with the 160 girls project through the court ruling that ensured girls are protected from rape, the organisation went on to win another key landmark case. On Thursday, October 27th 2017, Maua court ruled that a Laare Police Officer be sentenced to 20 years for sexually defiling a 13-year old school girl in Kenya. This is one of 11 child rape cases that Kenya’s high court ordered to be re-opened in 2013, after Ripples International sued the police for failing to investigate hundreds of cases brought to them – instead demanding bribes from and even locking up girls attempting to make reports. After six (6) years in and out of court, this landmark victory was one of 5 successful court rulings in favour of the 160 girls that Ripples international advocated for.
It all started in December 2010 when police officer Joseph Mutua, on duty at a local bank, beckoned a 13-year old school girl in the company of her friends to approach him. He made advances at the little girl and suggested sex (which she refused), but forcefully raped her in a back room at the A.P Quarters. Mutua subsequently threatened to harm her if she informed anyone of the vicious act. Not surprisingly, the 13-year old obliged out of “fear of the uniform”. After a few months, the girl’s family realized that she was pregnant. The family immediately contacted Ripples International to seek justice for their daughter. But since the accused was a policeman, the police were reluctant to investigate the issue and even tampered with DNA evidence. The accused finally managed to coerce the family into accepting to withdraw the case and settle out of court. When the child was born in 2011, DNA tests confirmed that Mutua was indeed the father of the child. This revelation was followed by failed promises of customary marriage and bribes for the girl’s family.
Finally, after six years of unsuccessful attempts at justice, the court ruled in favour of the 13-year old school girl. The court determined that the stories of the accused, the girl (who had been coerced to speak in favour of the accused) and her mother did not corroborate, demonstrating inconsistencies such as the residential location of the supposed married couple . The fabricated stories led the judge to rule for the imprisonment of the police officer for 20 years. The girl has since returned to school.
We congratulate our grantee partner Ripples International and all change agents in Africa, the women who speak out and refuse to give up. We salute you!