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Miscarriage puzzle, missing HIV drugs and brutality in police cells

 Jane was charged with an abortion she knew nothing about but was acquitted after six years. [Getty Images]

The pain of a woman who had just miscarried was compounded by being wrongly charged for an abortion she knew nothing about.

It was more traumatising and inhumane for the police to forcefully drag the woman to a hospital for pregnancy tests, and then keep her in a criminal court for six years as a suspect for a foetus that was dumped by another woman who aborted it.

She is now before the High Court and is seeking, among others, compensation for illegal arrest, detention, trumped-up charges and ill-treatment.

Jane (not her real name for privacy’s sake) has asked the court to conceal her name throughout the trial.

Jane’s woes

According to court records, her woes started sometime in 2016. She narrated that at around 6am, she was woken up by noises in her neighbourhood.

“I attentively listened to the loud shouts, talks, conversations and the full crux of it was that there had been found within my neighbourhood a foetus in a trench nearby,” she narrated.

In the case, Jane said that two women later accosted her and accused her of dumping the foetus.

She further said that no one knew whether she was pregnant or not. Despite that, Jane claimed that the two asserted that the neighbourhood knew that she was expectant and had terminated the pregnancy.

Jane, a casual labourer, argued that this was untrue.

In her court papers, Jane painted a picture of inhumane police officers. She stated that she was arrested the same day, with a claim that she had procured an abortion.

At the station, she narrated that a female police officer threatened to strip her naked to confirm if she was bleeding.

Jane said she opened up to the officer that she had been expectant for some time and had gone through a traumatising miscarriage. This was recorded.

Jane added that she thought that the issue was settled. However, she recalled that another female police officer took her to a hospital for a medical check-up.

According to her, the officer insisted on remaining in the doctor’s room while she was being examined. This, she said, was a lack of courtesy and privacy breach.

The woman stated that the officer duped her that after the hospital check-up, she would be free.

She was, however, arraigned the following day and the police sought to hold her for a week.

Jane asserted that she had not been informed about her rights as a person under arrest.

At the station, she said that she was bleeding and the situation had been made worse by her HIV status. According to her, the police refused to provide her with medicine.

“Instead, the police told me to call my neighbour to get me my medication but I was reluctant and declined that proposal. Given the stigma associated with HIV and the situation that I was in, I was apprehensive of having my condition known, all to my prejudice and utter detriment,” narrated Jane.

Jane said that she was charged on March 25, 2016, and was released on Sh10,000 cash bail. The criminal trial dragged on for six years.

She narrated that the magistrate’s court acquitted her last year for lack of evidence. No one appeared to put a case for the State against her.

“This cumulatively took six years and two months, during which I underwent extreme prejudice, agony, humiliation, and grave trauma,” said Jane.

Illegal arrest

She faults the police for illegal arrest, conducting medical examination without her consent, and failure to give her information on her rights as an arrested and subsequently an accused person.

Jane sued the Attorney General, the Inspector General of Police, and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

She accused the police of failing to conduct a DNA test to ascertain whether the foetus was hers. At the same time, she said the police pressed charges even before investigations.

Jane was also aggrieved that she spent six years in the corridors of justice without the prosecution producing a witness against her.

She also accused the police of failing to ensure she had the best healthcare at the cells and conducting medical tests without her consent.

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