Amnesty International Report says Women, Girls in Nairobi Slums at Risk of Rape
Amnesty International Report says Women, Girls in Nairobi Slums at Risk of Rape

A recent report by Amnesty International says women and girls living in Nairobi's more than 200 slums are at constant risk of being raped, especially after dark.

Risk of 'going to the toilet'

Going to the toilet at night for some girls and women living in a Nairobi slum is risky. Many females prefer so-called  "flying toilets," the common practice of putting waste in a plastic bag and tossing it away.

In this part of town, bathrooms - or even piped water - inside of houses is an unimaginable luxury. But women dare not venture out past twilight to use the few available public facilities.

One woman did not want her name used. She tells the story of what happened to her one evening when she walked to the public toilet and met up with a group of men.

"They started beating me up, one of them removing my clothes. I tried to struggle and get away, but they were too strong. I could only scream as they beat me up. They hit my mouth with stones. I lost some teeth and the others had to be put in braces. I kept struggling and I screamed as one of them attempted to rape me. Fortunately, it was not late at night, so people came when they heard me screaming. The men ran away," a female victim explained.

The woman's experience is one of many detailed in a recent Amnesty International report.

Justus Nyang'aya is director of Amnesty International Kenya. He says that, while all people who live in slums are denied their basic human rights to sanitation, a clean environment and security, women in particular suffer indignity when facilities and safety are lacking.

"In terms of relieving yourself, a man can do it on a fence. It is not easy for a woman to do it on a fence because of the nature of indignity that comes with it. The sense of respect and self-worth stops women from just going to relieve themselves on a fence in the open as people are watching. And that is why at a certain time of the night, women will take their bath in their homes but also, because of lack of toilet facilities, they will excrete in bags in their house," Nyang'aya said.

Living conditions are difficult in informal settlements

But even taking a bath in their own homes is difficult for women. A typical home in an informal settlement is one room that can hold up to eight people. If family members do not leave the room, she may be forced to bathe in front of them or forgo her bath.

There are 200 slums, or "informal settlements," in Kenya's capital. An estimated two million people, or half of Nairobi's population live in them. Yet, the informal settlements take up just five per cent of Nairobi's residential area and just one per cent of all land in the city.

Informal settlements are not included in city planning. Most residents do not receive basic services such as running water, sewage pipes and electricity. Only 24 percent of residents have access to toilet facilities at household level, with up to 200 people sharing a single latrine in some neighborhoods.

Security is nonexistent

Amnesty International's Justus Nyang'aya says that even security services are absent. "There is no single police station or policing that is taking place in the informal settlements. If anybody is attacked or if somebody needs access to justice they have to walk maybe about six kilometers to the nearest police station or even 10 [kilometers] because there is none that is serving them," he said.

Nyang'aya says that one out of every five women in Kenya's slums are raped and most are afraid to report the attacks for fear of reprisals.

He says there has been some progress. Nairobi's city council has installed lights in some areas and added toilets in others. But Nyang'aya says informal settlements need to be included in city planning.

Left to their own defenses, some women are fighting back. In the informal settlement of Korogocho, a group called I'm Worth Defending teaches women self-defense skills and provides rape counseling.