A new phone app is set to bring justice to children who fall victims of defilement by giving their guardians access to information to learn about their rights as well as report cases where police fail to act.
Moreover, the 160 Girls App will enable police to investigate rape cases by providing them with detailed steps on how to handle the inquiry over the matter.
“The police will use the app as a resource to assist defilement victims and their guardians and when help requests are made they [police] will be able to respond effectively and efficiently, in real time,” said Fiona Sampson, executive director of the Equality Effect, non-profit charity that fights for justice for defiled or raped children in Kenya using international rights law.
As for the community members including victim’s family, Sampson, a human rights lawyer says they can use the app to “ensure that they are fully informed of their rights and obligations relating to defilement law; they can use this information to advocate for access to justice with the police.” The app can also help them locate a police station closest to them and get directions to the station.
The App that was launched January 11, 2016 will be rolled out in four targeted counties as a pilot project: Nairobi, Mombasa, Meru and Kakamega. But the app, Sampson told African Exponent, can be accessed throughout Kenya, but the live features, the police locator function and help request feature are only available in our 4 pilot counties where the prevalence of defilement is especially high and rape rescue centre partners are located and where the 160 Girls police training has been conducted.
She was speaking after her visit to Kenya that saw the launch of the app, accompanied by community-based Public Legal Education initiatives, and the 160 Girls song and video by recording artist Rosie Ohon.
The Equality Effect in collaboration with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, and the Kenya National Police Service are working together to make sure that all girls in the country know their rights and have access to justice.
“This is a welcome opportunity to demonstrate the National Police Service’s commitment to enforcing the 160 Girls decision. Said Kenya National Police Inspector General Joseph Boinett. It is a “terrific chance to ensure that girls’ rights are protected and perpetrators are held accountable for the horrendous sexual violence.”
In 2013, Kenya’s High Court ruled that police had failed to enforce existing rape laws- a violation of domestic, regional, and human rights law. The court ordered the force to investigate and prosecute all child defilement cases brought forward. The case brought by a rescue centre in Meru, one of the counties the project will be implemented, said over 160 child rape cases reported had not been investigated. The work that led to this landmark ruling informs the Equality Effect’s projects.
Already, Equality Effect has trained 700 police officer in these counties.
Apart from defilement victims, the app can also be used by their guardians, stakeholders, teachers, religious leaders, children advocates- anyone a child might disclose a rape too who will advocate for the child.
It also targets potential perpetrators by creating awareness so that they learn that there are now repercussions for the crime of defilement and will be deterred. It is being rolled out through workshop trainings, advertising, outreach, social media among other media platforms.
“Deterrence will help to achieve the behavior change necessary to ensure that men understand that there are consequences for raping children – they will be investigated, arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated,” Sampson noted adding that the imprisonment can be anywhere from life to 15 years (a life sentence applies to incest cases and children under 11 years of age).
The app outlines 12 steps that police should take in a rape investigation from recording the complaint to arresting the suspect.
Apart from that, the app directs that police should not take bribes or issue forms. It is also an offense for victim’s family to settle the case out of court as is commonly done in exchange for ‘elders/community gifts’ and other ‘gifts’ which leave the victims suffering. If police face challenges with a community, they can use the app to educate members of their legal obligations and advocate on behalf of girls to ensure their protection and safety.
If the police fail to help with investigation, 160 Girls app provides a platform to further seek help from 160 Girls Faculty of senior police who are taking the lead to ensure cases are handled in a “prompt, proper, professional and effective” manner.
As for future plans, Equality Effect hopes to make the live features, the police locator function and help request function, available throughout Kenya.
“The plan is also to take the app to other countries that have expressed interest in implementing the app, building on success in Kenya,” concluded Sampson.
Image Courtsey of Equality Effect