The referee blows the whistle. It’s a goal. Fans of the football team that has just scored are busy cheering while the other fans are busy sulking. I can see a few fans of the opposing team tear up with fear of their team losing.
It’s not the usual football match you would expect. The match is at the Chuma football grounds in Shimo la Tewa Maximum security Prison in Mombasa. The match is between sex offenders and paralegals. The sex offenders play for the Badilika team representing the prison, and Mabrouk representing the paralegals. The match ends 6-5 with Badilika winning the match.
Betty Sharon is the co-ordinator of Pwani GBV [Gender Based Violence] network, an organization which deals with raising awareness on gender based violence. Sharon says, “The world marks 16 days of activism against gender based violence from November 25th to December 10th. We chose Shimo la Tewa prison because we run a program with them that involves sex offenders.”
The network rehabilitates the sex offenders and also provides counseling to help the offenders evaluate their actions. Some offenders defiled their own children.
The GBV network chose football as a way to bring together both groups; the convicted offenders and the paralegals who were involved in their indictment. The network believes that this would be able to foster understanding and good relations between the two.
Michael Tole the chairman of the Badilika team explains, ‘We started this group to educate our fellow prison mates on human rights. And raise awareness on gender based violence. I was found guilty for sexual assault. I still insist on my innocence. I am serving a 15 year jail term.’
Sergeant Kessy Rashid co-ordinates the GBV clubs in the prison and agrees with Sharon. Rashid says the Badilika team has done an excellent job in raising awareness on gender based violence. All members of the team were found guilty of carrying out sexual offences. Rashid is quick to add that he has seen a positive change in the offenders now with high levels of discipline. Rashid says that he wishes a football match could be organized where the ladies would play against the gentlemen.
Lou Derrick, is the chairman of the International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH), Mombasa. ICRH works closely with women and children who have undergone sexual abuse. ‘We work hand in hand with the Coast Provincial General Hospital in Mombasa. We are ready to work with men but reports say they do not seek help in case of sexual defilement because of stigma and denial.’
Women and children are most vulnerable to cases of gender based violence. Monica Aluoch lives in the sprawling slums of Mombasa. It was not immediately evident, when I spoke to her, of the magnitude of the ordeal she had undergone.
‘‘I am HIV positive and I am a reformed sex worker. When I was 16 I got married but I am now a widow with 4 kids to raise. I do odd jobs like helping people brew chang’aa, and yes I know it is illegal,” Aluoch says.
When Aluoch’s husband died she turned to commercial sex work to feed her children. She could not get a decent job. “Getting a job is not easy.” She says. Aluoch used to sleep with 4 men in one day and each would offer her on average, 200 Kenya shillings.
‘Some used to beat me up after an encounter. Other men would call their friends to rape me after I got drunk.’ Aluoch recalls.
Aluoch was molested at the age of 9 by her cousin. ‘My cousin used to touch me inappropriately. I reported the incidence to my brothers. They reported the issue to my uncle, a doctor.” Her uncle ignored the whole incident noting that the perpetrators were also his relatives.
Challenges arise when solving gender based violence in cases where the perpetrator is a relative.
In the cases ICRH receive in Mombasa, 74% of the survivors know who defiled them. Most of the survivors are children who account for 80% of those who have been violated. Elizabeth Aroka is a lawyer with ICRH in Mombasa who specializes in representing survivors of sexual assault. She explains her experiences.
“Most of the time children report these cases after these acts have been happening for a long time. Sometimes the children are threatened and given as little as ten shillings so that they do not report the incidences,’’ concludes Elizabeth Aroka.