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Women and girls paralysed by fear of rape

Women and girls in Nairobi’s shanty towns live in constant fear of rape, says a new report by a human rights group. The threat of sexual violence makes women in the Kenyan capital’s poorest areas prisoners in their own homes, leaving them often too scared to leave their houses to use communal toilets and bathrooms. And their health is at risk as a result as they become more likely to catch diseases such as dysentery and cholera, the report said.About 60 per cent of the two million people in Nairobi live in slums with limited access to water and washing facilities.

In a report released yesterday, Amnesty International criticised a lack of policing in the shanties. It called on the government to tackle violence against women and to give women safe access to toilets and bathrooms.

Nineteen year-old Amina was attacked as she walked to a latrine in Nairobi's Mathare shanty town. "I always underestimated the threat of violence," she said. "I would go to the latrine any time provided it was not too late." Four men attacked her in the early evening and were about to rape her when her cries were heard and a group of people arrived to save her, said the report, Insecurity and Indignity: Women's experiences in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.“Women in Nairobi’s settlements become prisoners in their own homes at night and some times well before it is dark,” said Godfrey Odongo, Amnesty International’s East Africa researcher. “They need more privacy than men when going to the toilet or taking a bath and the inaccessibility of facilities make women vulnerable to rape, leaving them trapped in their own homes. “The fact that they are unable to access even the limited communal toilet facilities also puts them at risk of illness.”

Unable to leave their one-roomed homes, many women in the shanty towns are driven to using 'flying toilets' - throwing plastic bags out of their homes to get rid of waste, the report said. And the piles of rotting waste raise the risk of disease. There is "a huge gap between what the government commits to do, and what is going on in the slums every day,” aid Mr Odongo. "Kenya's national policies recognise the rights to sanitation and there are laws in place. However, because of decades of failure to recognise slums and informal settlements, planning laws and regulations are not enforced in these areas.  "The lack of enforcement of these laws has ensured that landlords in the slums can get away without providing any toilets or shower places for their tenants."

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