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Kenyan Women Risk Sexual Assault at Community Bathrooms

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Wellness related image Photo: Getty Images

The rape of Kenyan women who are forced to use community toilets in the slums surrounding Nairobi, the capital, has escalated to a dangerous point.

Take the case of 42-year-old Rebecca Nduku, a single mother of three. Although she had been warned that it was unsafe to go to the toilet alone, she figured that at 7:30 p.m., with many people walking about, she would not suffer dire consequences.

Instead she reported the following, “The moment I unlocked the toilet’s wooden door to walk back home I was dragged to an abandoned house where I was abused, in turns, by five men until I blacked out.”

In July 2010, Amnesty International UK issued a report titled “Risking Rape to Reach a Toilet - Women’s Experiences in the Slums of Nairobi, Kenya.” The report is detailed in its account of the lives of 130 Kenyan women whose lives are dominated by fear in the four largest slums surrounding Nairobi.

Nairobi and the Ministry of Public Health have faltered because they have failed to include informal settlements and slums within mainstream urban planning, according to the report. In particular there is no enforcement of existing sanitation standards, and this results in great disparities in access to sanitation facilities between the slums and informal settlements, and other residential areas, according to Amnesty.

The Amnesty report goes on to say that many women have suffered rape as well as other forms of violence for simply walking to a toilet or latrine some distance from their homes. To counteract this, women will sometimes use latrines in groups or ask male family members to accompany them when it is night. The facilities however, remain inadequate and inaccessible.

Women in the settlements are “prisoners within their own homes,” said Dr. Godfrey Odongo, a research associate for Amnesty.

According to United Nations statistics, 16 million Kenyans or 40 percent of the country’s population, live in slums.

Poverty is increasing and this means that an increasing number of women are not being protected. This is of course particularly acute inside the boundaries of the slums and informal settlements surrounding Nairobi.

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