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Outrage Over 'Rape Culture' Among Kenyan Lawmakers

  • Gabe Joselow

A Kenyan member of parliament is under investigation for allegedly raping a woman in his Nairobi office. The alleged incident is the latest in a string of sexual offenses involving Kenyan lawmakers. Demonstrators took to the streets of the capital Thursday to call for justice and an end to what they say is a culture of rape in the country.

A crowd of about 60 activists marched past the Supreme Court, the police headquarters and toward the National Assembly chanting, “We don't want excuses, we want justice.”

The march comes as Member of Parliament Gideon Mwiti Irea faces accusations of beating and raping a woman who had come to his private office a few days ago to discuss official business.

Local media reported the woman was also forced to take an HIV test before she was assaulted.

Irea, who denies the accusations, has changed his story several times, first saying he did not know the woman and then later admitting they had been out together at a club he owns. Charges have yet to be filed.

Atsango Chesoni, executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, delivered a statement denouncing these and other acts of sexual abuse in Kenya.

“Sexual violence by duty bearers and those in positions of authority has often been left to fizzle out once public outrage on the issue dies,” said Chesoni.

Irea's case is the most recent in a series of sexual offense allegations against members of parliament.

In February, a woman allegedly working as a secretary to Member of Parliament Francis Waititu said she was fired after rejecting the lawmaker's advances.

And last week, during a presidential visit to Japan, a female MP said she had to fend off one of her male colleagues who then called her “useless” when she rejected him.

Speaking to protesters Thursday, the chairperson of the Kenyan Women Parliamentarian Association, Cecily Mbaririe, said sexual abuse laws should be applied consistently, regardless of whether those involved in a crime were members of parliament or not.

“We are here to ensure that the laws that we have passed are used and implemented to the letter. We are here to ensure that no form of violence against women or against anybody will go unpunished,” she said.

During a State of the Nation address Thursday, President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed the negative perceptions of lawmakers, what he called the “disquiet” caused by recent events. He also urged members to “urgently restore the dignity and integrity of parliament.”

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