Elderly women in Korogocho, Kenya are taking precautions to protect themselves after an outbreak of senior rapes have occurred in the down-trodden area of the community.
The Gender Recovery Center at the Nairobi Women's Hospital treated 2,357 victims of rape last year. Of the 1,118 adults who were victims of the crime, 223 women over the age of 60.
To combat the violence, an elderly Kenyan woman has decided to teach her peers techniques, to demonstrate how to combat a spate of rape attacks targeting elderly women in the slums.
A two-finger poke to the eyes, a punch to the solar plexus, a kick to the groin, then turn and run, the instructor commands.
“When we hit the pad with an open palm we are training to target the nose, the solar plexus or the groin to hurt an attacker so that it can give you a chance to escape. Shouting ‘no' repetitively is meant to draw the attention of people so that they can assist you,” Wangui states, who has been training for almost two years.
Ten elderly women have been raped and killed in the last two years in Korogocho and one hospital in Nairobi reports treating more than 437 rape victims older than 60 last year. Many other rapes are believed to have taken place but not reported.
“One of the causes of elderly rape is a belief by criminals that intercourse with elderly women can cure them of AIDS. Others think that raping an elderly woman will cleanse their sins after committing crimes, Kariuki said. “Although there are a slew of victims, no suspects have been arrested.
Dr. Jake Sinclair, a founding member of Ujamaa, a non-governmental organization that helps rape victims and holds the self-defense classes, said many class members are grandmothers motivated by the fact that they are raising their children's children.
“If they lose that they have nothing,” Sinclair said. “In most cases the mothers and the fathers have died of HIV and if the grandmother cannot support them or protect them, the kids will end up on the streets or the Kenya youth authority, which is like prison. If they end up on the streets it is prostitution or thuggery.”
Elizabeth Olwenya is a grandmother to four children under the age of 5 who were orphaned after two of Olwenya's daughters died of AIDS. The 55-year-old Olwenya was one of the first to take the self-defense classes three years ago, and said the skills she learned help protect her grandchildren.
“The life here is not good,” Olwenya states. “People here can rape you and even your child.”
Some believe that it is authorities' lack of concern that contributes to this type of behavior.
“Many of the reporting desks at police stations are manned by men who see rape as a crime of pleasure rather than seeing it as a crime that violates women's dignity,” Haki Focus official Harun Ndubi said.
80-year-old Julia Karinge, said she has been raped twice and feels that no matter the measures, the vicious attacks will continue.
“I did not resist either time because I did not want to die. They killed a friend of mine and dumped her body outside my house,” said Karinge, who is not taking the defense classes.
No arrests were made, though she reported the crime to police and could identify her attacker.