Transformation in Kenyan justice system enables IJM project closureSex Trafficking
After almost two decades, IJM Kenya is concluding its Sexual Violence Against Children project. The Kenyan justice system has dramatically transformed how it responds to these crimes, allowing IJM Kenya to focus on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
20 years in Kenya
IJM opened its first office in Africa in 2001 out of Nairobi, Kenya. In 2003, the office focused its work on cases of police abuse of power and sexual violence against children (SVAC).
At the beginning of IJM Kenya’s work, SVAC cases were not a priority for the government, so there were immense challenges to successful prosecution. Police officers did not have training on how to investigate these cases, and, because of this, most SVAC cases were settled out-of-court, instead of receiving a trial.
Seeing a need for training and improvement in the Kenyan justice system, the IJM team made it a goal to work with police to execute arrests.
Over the last 10 years, IJM partnered with police and other professionals involved in the justice process, such as hospital staff. Working on individual cases of SVAC, IJM Kenya not only mentored police, but supported them during arrests.
Charles Juma, Officer in Charge of Crime, has worked with IJM on a number of SVAC cases. He has used his position of leadership to coach his police officers to work closely with communities to solve SVAC cases and other crimes:
“Every day when police officers go out on duty, I usually brief them: you are there to protect members of public, you are there to protect our image as police officers. So protecting this depends on how you interact with the members of public. If you be aggressive with them, they will shy off. You won’t get any information. But if you be responsive, listening to them, you get much information.”
Partners have a disciplined approach to resolving SVAC cases, with greatly improved referral mechanisms and coordination. Because of these transformative developments and gains, IJM Kenya made the decision to conclude the SVAC program in 2019. No new cases have been accepted, but IJM has continued to work with partners until ongoing cases are concluded.
While working in Kenya, the IJM team has had the opportunity to improve the lives of the children who were rescued and restored, but also impact the lives of police officers, social workers, hospital staff and others integral in the justice process for SVAC.
Alice Mugadia is a Police Constable working in the Gender Unit in Nairobi. She has worked on sensitive cases with children who have experienced sexual violence for 10 years. Since working with IJM, Alice shares what she is most proud of:
“At first when the perpetrators could run away, I could just say, ‘Now that they have run away, what can I do? I’m now bound, I cannot do anything.’ But then IJM came and they could follow up with the matter and make sure that we have arrested the perpetrator. Now I know that I can follow up the matter to the end. At the moment, when I see a case, I cannot just leave it at that. Even if the perpetrator has run away, I have to follow up and know what is happening... I will not let the liability on my side.”
IJM Kenya moves to address Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
IJM Kenya is recognized as experts on matters of SVAC and has a seat on many national planning meetings as an organization that has experience both working these cases and coaching partners.
The strong justice system for SVAC cases and subsequent closure of IJM Kenya’s SVAC casework is a victory for children in Kenya. Community and government leaders will continue to pursue prosecutions, restoration, and protection for children, and IJM Kenya will continually evaluate where it is most strategic and urgent to serve.
Moving forward, IJM Kenya has shifted its focus to working on cases of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC), with the support of the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery.