Preventing the Sexual Abuse of People with Disabilities in Kenya and Uganda

Image: Advantage Africa

During 10 years of work with people with disabilities in Kenya and Uganda, Advantage Africa’s project workers have dealt first-hand with numerous incidents of sexual abuse. This disturbing issue is often hidden from society and the authorities in Africa, but it is now an area of growing and critical concern.

Advantage Africa has completed a two-year research project which aims to reduce the incidence of sexual abuse against people with disabilities and help communities bring the perpetrators to justice.

The overall findings show that social attitudes and understanding of disability and sexuality in general are strong influencing factors on the risks that persons with disability face in relation to sexual abuse.

Participants reported a range of harmful attitudes and beliefs about disability and about the needs and rights of persons with disabilities. It is very common for cases of abuse to go unreported and to be dealt with at the family or community level, rather than being viewed as a serious criminal matter which should be taken to formal authorities.

Many barriers exist, especially at community level, which mean abuse does not get reported. Lack of awareness and knowledge, stigma and exclusion and poverty were key drivers of continuing abuse and survivors of abuse seldom receiving proper support. Guidelines, training and clear procedures for good practice amongst the service providers were generally weak or absent.