Sex workers condemn rape of mothers in Kenya’s biggest referral hospital

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Hundreds of sex workers in Kenya joined other activists on Wednesday to protest the poor state of health services at the Kenyatta National Hospital, which is the biggest referral health facility in East Africa.

The march held in Nairobi was precipitated by weeks of gruesome testimonies from lactating mothers sexually violated within the hospital allegedly by morgue attendants and male nurses as they walked down from third floor to the ground one where the nurseries are.

ASWA Director, Daughtie Ogutu, during the march on Wednesday.

Among the protesters were sex workers, who have been raped or detained for months for failure to pay maternity fee.

“I was a victim months ago, when I reported the matter to a matron, she rolled her eyes at me and left. She wondered what was special about me,” said Fridah, a sex worker who was among the protestors.

“Sexual violence is a pandemic that needs to be addressed. Women suffer in silence because the Government treats it casually. This makes me angry,” said Christine, also a sex worker.

Her anger is felt by thousands of Kenyans, who took to the streets and to the social media to protest.

As often the case, the government has denied the rape allegations accusing the civil society of getting ‘paid by foreign masters’ to discredit its effort in providing health for all Kenyans without discrimination. However, the government’s assertions fall flat on its face since despite a campaign pledge to offer free maternity through a discounted health insurance, mothers are still being detained for non-payment.

The anger is also fuelled by the fact that, although the government has refused to acknowledge the atrocities committed against new mothers, it claims to have increased the number of guards at the hospital and put up suggestion boxes for women to anonymous report sexual violations.

These ‘heightened’ security measures came after the hospital’s CEO, Lily Koros claimed that there were no rapes at the hospital and the women’s testimonies were in bad faith.

“We must hold the government and those in charge account, our mothers cannot continue being raped and facing other crimes in an institution where they are supposed to feel safe,” says ASWA’s Director, Daughtie Ogutu who was among the organisers of peaceful match.

“Women of Kenya are tired of being violated. Due to lack of investigations, women of Kenya are supposed to forget and move on. No women, will not forget and move on,” says Rita Mutheu, a co-founder of Her Voice Kenya that mobilised hundred of women and men for the protest.

Mildred Owiso, also an organiser of the match and who runs a Facebook page ‘Buyer Beware, where the allegations were first reported, read a petition outside the hospital. It was later presented to the Ministry of Health.

Despite the Government’s diversionary tactics over the rot at the hospital, Daughtie and other activists have said they will not rest until the matter is addressed.

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