New Evidence Emerges of Mass Rape During Post-election Violence in Kenya

This post originally appeared on Women Under Siege.

A study by Physicians for Human Rights published today in the peer-reviewed online publication PLOS One has found that the pattern of sexual assault perpetrated during the period following the contested 2007 presidential elections in Kenya is consistent with the patterns of mass rape documented in conflict settings elsewhere. The study provides indisputable evidence to support the claims being advanced in legal processes under way in Kenya and at the International Criminal Court: that crimes against humanity of mass rape did take place during that time.

Kenya endured significant atrocities in the post-election period (December 2007 to February 2008), including murder, ethnic cleansing, and rape. While the violence affected many regions, the experience in the western Rift Valley was particularly brutal. The media reported on hundreds of cases of sexualized violence during that time, and the Commission of Inquiry on Post-Election Violence (Waki Commission) affirmed these allegations. Yet few comprehensive medical studies using rigorous scientific methods have been undertaken to measure the prevalence of sexualized violence cases in the various communities affected. The absence of such data is significant as the International Criminal Court in The Hague seeks to prosecute high-level individuals who allegedly played a role in these crimes, including Kenya’s current President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.

In an attempt to establish the patterns of mass rape during the post-election violence, Physicians for Human Rights conducted a study of 1,600 medical records from three health care facilities in the Rift Valley from 2007 to 2011. The researchers set out to determine how often patients seeking medical care and treatment reported characteristics of sexualized violence during the three-month post-election period, as compared to other times during the specified five-year period. The objective of the study was to identify whether there had been a systematic rise in sexual assault cases following the post-election violence. In addition to quantitative analyses, the team also conducted qualitative in-depth interviews with clinicians at the three health care facilities. The researchers compared findings to studies from other conflict settings, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Darfur.

PLOS One, an international online publication featuring reports of original research within the fields of science and medicine, published the complete findings of PHR’s study, which was the first to use a major medical record review to illustrate systematic differences in the reported cases. For example, the study showed that relative to the entire period of Kenyan rapes that were measured, the post-election period demonstrated systematic differences in the medical records of survivors of sexual assault. The findings in survivor cases suggest that the pattern of perpetration changed drastically during the post-election period and was distinct from non-post-election violence rapes. The study exposed new systematic patterns of sexual assault during the post-election period in Kenya in addition to finding that mass rape had taken place during that time. While it is not possible to generalize the numbers of rapes that took place during the post-election period, the study definitively showed that there was a very pointed, time-specific change in the way rape occurred that perfectly correlated with the post-election period…

Read the full article on Women Under Siege.

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