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HIV/AIDS, Rape, and Sexual Violence Threatens the Lives of the Disabled in Kenya Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Antony Felix O. Simbowo, Kenya Mar 20, 2006
Poverty , Human Rights , Culture , Green Spaces   Opinions
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HIV/AIDS, rape and several other forms of sexual violence face today’s African woman, man and child. This happens at the height of a litany of campaigns and pseudo-campaigns orchestrated to fight against the same socioeconomic ignominies. In a continent mired by high household poverty levels, and mind-numbing unemployment altitudes, these are very welcome moves. Amid this scenario, is the fate of the physically and mentally disabled as they struggle to live comfortably and survive under similar circumstances with the general society.

That many of the physically and mentally handicapped in Kenya and Africa have been ignored in the campaigns against HIV/AIDS, rape and sexual violence is a naked verity. In a part of the globe where handicap has long been regarded as caused by curses, evil spirits or parents’ evil commissions, many cases of sexual violence and rape faced by these people have gone unreported mainly as a result of the attitude of the society towards them.

Many are those whose parents, guardians and relatives at that, have hidden in houses, as they are perceived to be a shame to the affected families due to their disabilities. Under such circumstances, they have been subjected to abuse and misuse by the very parents or relatives in whom the role of custodianship is bestowed. A while ago in the Eastern Province of Kenya, the Kenyan nation watched in shock as TV screens beamed pictures of a mentally handicapped 15 year old girl who had apparently been sexually abused and impregnated by a mentally stable member of the public. As she narrated what had transpired oblivious of the cameras and the public consternation, the young girl epitomized the neglect and abuse that the handicapped in the Kenyan and wider African society face today.

Similarly, a harrowing tale was told by another mentally handicapped teenager, a 16 year old girl, of how her step-father continuously and regularly raped and defiled her right under the un-detecting nose of her mother and to add insult to injury, on her mother’s bed. The story aired on BBC Nairobi in November 27th 2005 evening at about 15:30 GMT, put to question the capacity of the existing legislation in curbing such acts committed against the handicapped in the Kenyan social order. Several other incidences of perverts forcefully detaining, threatening and luring young mentally and physically handicapped boys and girls into bushes and their hovels for sexual abuse and defilement abound in Kenya and many other parts of Africa.

It is serious to note that many of these atrocious acts often go unreported due to the fact that many of the victims themselves are unable to do so or talk due to fear or incapacitation as in the case of the mentally handicapped. Some shameless parents of the victims have also been known to collude with the perpetrators and receive money for immunity against prosecution. As such, the relevant Kenyan and African governments should strive to put into place effective legal and policy frameworks, which will go a long way in not only deterring such offences but also stopping them all together. Already, a Sexual Offences Bill is in the offing in Kenya. The Bill is popularly known as ‘Njoki Bill’, from its initiator, Kenyan Member of Parliament Njoki Ndun’gu. It aims to stem rapes and unnecessary sexual advances and innuendos, which may culminate into harassment. However, the Bill has yet to address the case of the mentally and physically handicapped in situations of sexual abuse and harassment.

Recently, a regional meeting encompassing countries from East and Central Africa such as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi among others took place in Nairobi, the Kenyan Capital. The meeting discussed various issues pertaining to gender violence and recommended that laws be put into place in the participating countries such that rapists will subjected to no less than 20 years in jail. Reports indicate that HIV/AIDS is rising fast among the mentally and physically handicapped in Kenya and more or so in the wider African continent. However, with the lack of proper and adequate facilities as well as policies on how the people can be handled in the wake of the pandemic, their fate seems to have been left to the dogs of neglect. What with the pervading backward and myopic cultural beliefs of them being “the unwanted” in African society?

The heralding of Voluntary Counseling and Testing centers (VCTs) for HIV/AIDS victims is an impetus for the African governments to formulate and implement policies, which will ensure that the physically and mentally disabled are reached out to and not discriminated against in the availing of these services. Frequent outreach programs and trips should be made by the already existing VCTs with the handicapped in mind. This will take care of those who for reasons of discrimination, fear of discrimination, incapacitation or otherwise are not able to go to the centers on their own. Thus, they will be able to ascertain their HIV status, at the nod from their guardians or parents especially if they are mentally handicapped.

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Antony Felix O. Simbowo

TakingITGlobal has never been more apt than it is now in providing a forum for expression. This is because the dynamic world has undeveloped challenges that pose a great problem to the growth and daily life of any youth in the global society. What with the incessant wars, poverty, HIV/AIDS, pornography, racism and several other vices creeping into the society in a culture best objectified as vicious gradualism.
Here is where writing comes in handy and the TakingITGlobal literati, glitterati and pundits alike have provided a vital conduit through which these vices, positive and negative dynamism can be expressed.
I am saddened for example, when a promising youth is reduced to a hopeless parasite by drugs. More saddening is when I see the mercilessness, the hopelessness, the dereliction, the lack of love that many children, youth and people are subjected to due to wars, poverty, pornography and such as other negativities which silently and slowly kill the spirit and will within humans! Having gone through such experiences myself, I pray that God gives me the massive ability to be able to help these people to the best of my ability with His guidance, provision and protection. I have often wondered whether the expression "do unto others what you would have them do unto you" is being subjected to relativity. These are the problems which need highlighting and what better forum is there than TakingITGlobal.
I am privileged to be part of this ideologically vimmed and gustoed community.

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