09 July 2010
Demand better security for women in Nairobi’s slums

More than half the residents of Nairobi live in informal settlements and slums with little or no police presence. Even in Kibera, Kenya’s largest informal settlement where up to one million people live, there is no permanent police station or post.

In all of Nairobi’s slums, violence is rampant and women are hit particularly hard. Housing is inadequate and residents have little access to clean water, sanitation, healthcare, schools and other essential public services. Many women have to walk long distances to reach toilets, which after dark becomes especially dangerous.

Violence against women is widespread and goes largely unpunished because of ineffective policing in Nairobi’s slums and informal settlements. Whether physical, sexual or psychological, the ever-present threat of violence looms large in all their lives. At home, at work or on the street, women and girls are at risk of violence at the hands of gangs, family members, employers and government security personnel. There is nowhere they can escape to for safety.

Many women who suffer gender-based violence do not seek justice or compensation, preferring to suffer in silence rather than report a crime to the authorities, or even to their families and communities.

The justice system is far removed from women’s lives, both because of the absence of police in the slums and because of the multiple obstacles that women face in access to justice.

Women fear that the authorities will not even recognize that what has been done to them is a crime, particularly if the abuse was within the family. Unfortunately, when it comes to domestic violence, this attitude prevails even within communities and families. Women also hesitate to report crimes when they know they will be at risk of reprisals if they alert the authorities, and that they will not be protected.

The authorities have not addressed women’s calls for a greater police presence in the slums. When police have come into the slums, rather than protect women, they have represented yet another threat to their security. Police officers themselves have been accused of raping women in slums, in particular during the 2008 post-election violence.

The lack of public security services is one of the consequences of the long-standing failure of the government to recognize Kenyan slums for city planning and budgeting purposes. The government has not lived up to its obligations to ensure effective policing in slums.

Join Amnesty International's campaign to demand that women in Nairobi’s slums can live with security and that they have access to justice.

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