"Some of you will of heard about the Kenyan woman, 'Liz' who was raped and beaten by six men and then left for dead. As well as the terror, pain and humiliation she experienced at the time, she was also left with horrendous injuries and, as a woman with little money, no hope of buying the medical treatment she needed. Fortunately, following a campaign in Nairobi, sufficient funds have been donated to pay for Liz's medical treatment. But that is not the end of it. Of course it isn't; with rape endemic in every country in the world, it is rarely the end of it. Kenyan laws allow for sentences for convicted rapists of up to 15 years and for the state to pay for medical treatment arising out of. Neither of these things have happened in Liz's case. The six men were arrested and held overnight in a police cell. The next morning they were required to spend half a day cutting grass as some form of community compensation. Then they were released with no charges.
Sure, the law says sexual violence should be punished but as we know in the UK, and as we know for all other countries - the law is not enough if the culture essentially supports violence against women. The law needs to be recognised, to be accepted, to be championed, to be actioned. Women need to have confidence in the law and confidence in those whose job it is to enforce it. And more than that - they need to have confidence that the media who report it fundamentally acknowledge the rights of women to be safe. We support many women at Devon Rape Crisis Service who just don't have that confidence, so essentially the law - and our society - fails them.
I was reading the weekly newspaper at the weekend, the Express and Echo covering Exeter and surrounding areas. My eye is drawn to a headline on page 25, 'Recluse obsessed with Porn' and on reading it, it is clear that 'porn' actually refers to 2million images of child abuse (and a second offence of this type). What is this headline saying about the gravity of this crime? And what does the suspended sentence say about the importance we place on childrens safety? I carry on and skim through all the outcomes from the magistrates court. I know I was not there and do not know all the details but this leaps out at me;
Man jailed for 12 weeks for two counts of shoplifting.
Man given suspended sentence for beating two women in two separate incidents on the same day.
First crime - items worth £60.04
Second crime - items worth ............... what exactly?"