Kenyans demand action over hospital rape accusations

Hundreds march in Nairobi demanding action on allegations of rape and sexual assault at Kenya's largest public hospital.

    Protesters call for a public inquiry and the resignation of Kenyatta National Hospital's management [Khalil Senosi/AP]
    Protesters call for a public inquiry and the resignation of Kenyatta National Hospital's management [Khalil Senosi/AP]

    Hundreds of people have taken to the streets of Kenya's capital, Nairobi, demanding action on allegations of rape and sexual assault at the country's largest public hospital.

    The protest on Tuesday came after anonymous claims on social media on January 19 alleged that male staff at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) abused several women, including new mothers heading from the maternity ward to the newborns' nursery to breastfeed their babies.

    The hospital's management promptly denied the allegations, calling the online posts "untrue" and "authored in bad faith".

    However, the accusations prompted a social media outcry over the weekend, with many Kenyans using the #EndKNHRot hashtag to voice their concern.

    On Monday, police said it had dispatched a special unit to probe the allegations, while the Ministry of Health also ordered KNH's management to investigate the issue.

    Speaking to Al Jazeera on Tuesday, Simon Ithai, a spokesman for the hospital, said a report had been submitted to President Uhuru Kenyatta's cabinet after the completion of the inquiry.

    Ithai did not comment on the probe's findings, but said: "These were allegations that appeared on social media. We have never received any complaints of rape, assault or harassment of patients." 

    Nairobi demonstration

    However, protesters in Nairobi on Tuesday demanded a public inquiry and called for the resignation of the hospital's managers.

    "After the allegations came online, the hospital management's first response was to deny them outright and label the survivors liars," Wanjeri Nderu, a rights activist, told Al Jazeera by phone.

    "That is not how you react to a situation where your hospital has been accused of gross negligence, of sexual abuse and mishandling of patients. That is why we decided we need to make a statement."

    She added: "Instead of getting to the bottom of such allegations, they (the government) denies them, and later the story is forgotten."

    Activists carried placards that read, "Rape is a crime. Let's not normalise it", and "We are patients, not prey," and "Clean up the mess at KNH", photos posted on Twitter showed.

    Dozens of hospital workers also staged a counterprotest at the hospital to deny claims of abuse. 

    The hospital has hired more private security guards and is planning to relocate breastfeeding mothers closer to the newborn unit, according to local media. 

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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