Self-examination intimate DNA swabs to enhance prosecutions of sexual violence in Kenya
conference contributionposted on 08.01.2021, 12:06 by Lisa Smith, Wangu Kanja, Jessica Ritchie
Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is challenging to investigate and prosecute. One of the critical challenges to prosecuting sexual violence is the frequent lack of forensic evidence, the improper handling of evidence, and problems in the chain of custody of evidence. All these issues contribute to complaints being dropped by victims, police not proceeding with an investigation, and lack of successful prosecution. DNA can make a significant contribution towards investigations of sexual violence as it can provide an objective method of identifying offenders of sexual violence. This project introduces a new, but reliable way to collect and preserve DNA in Kenya. The design of the DNA kits enables victims to self-administer intimate DNA swabs, supervised in a healthcare setting. This approach makes DNA evidence recovery possible in clinics with no trained forensic medical professionals, and empowers women to take a more active role in their medical examination. The process encourages the timely collection of DNA evidence (within 72 hours) to ensure a viable sample for analysis. Further, the tamper-proof, self-drying packaging allows the samples to be air-dried to preserve the integrity of the DNA, and also maintains the chain of custody by reducing the chances of contamination, tampering and human error – overall enhancing access to high-quality evidence for victims, police, and prosecutors.