Struggle for justice:Maid forced to wash corpse says life in danger

Whenever discussions about house-helps come up, many employers will have few positive things to say.

Most complain about girls or women who have problems taking instructions or getting ‘big-headed’.

Little is ever said about the house-helps who are submissive, helpful and in most cases, desperate enough to do what is required of them.

Penienah Awour, a former house help of a businessman in Pangani who accused her former employer of forcing her to wash the body of a dead man that was preserved under the bed, Now she claims that her life in in danger/COURTESY

A house-help who accused a businessman of forcing her to wash a corpse daily for 47 days back in 2018 says her life is in danger.

Penninah Awour, 28, told Kibera Magistrate Boaz Ombewa that on various occasions strange men have attacked her physically, asking why she was proceeding with the case against the Pangani-based businessman Ahmed Noor Abdi.

“My life is in danger, I met some strange men who beat me up immediately I left this court on February 21. I am asthmatic, I don’t have a job, and the case is adjourned every time it comes up for hearing. Since 2017 my case has been adjourned on the grounds that the doctor who is to testify on a medical report has not attended court,” she said.

Landed a job

Awour had searched for a job for long before landing one at Mohammed’s home as a house-help.

” I knew the work would entail keeping the house clean and taking care of the children, until a week after I started working,” she said in her statement.

When she declined to take up the new role, the woman said her employer would get hostile, physically and sexually assaulting her.

“One week after I started working for the family, Noor’s wife told me that if my work remained as impressive, she would give me a Sh500 raise to the Sh6500 that I was earning. She added that they had a new assignment for me, which her husband would brief me about later,” she explained.

Called into bedroom

Awour said Noor, then returned the same evening and called her into their bedroom after locking all the doors.

“He asked me to push the bed away from the wall. I stepped on something and when I looked down, I jumped in shock.

“He said I’d be required to clean the corpse. When I declined, he shoved his gun at me and said I would do it by force,” the woman told the court.

She continued: “Very scared, I listened to him bark instructions on how I would clean the lifeless body at 10am everyday.”

She described how, using a face towel, water and bath gel, she would clean the corpse from the face, body and down to its groin.

She also told the court that she had been seeing a man her employer referred to as ‘doctor’ regularly come into the bedroom but she never found out who he was treating until her employer’s wife disclosed that to her.

Treat the body

“She told me the doctor came to treat the body so it does not smell. She also warned me to touch the wad of money that mysteriously appeared below the body at my own risk,” she submitted.

The woman says she decided to let the cat out of the bag after the boss chased her away without pay.

She told the court that on September 28, 2018, as she was ironing clothes, the man groped her from behind but when she protested, he hit her.

The woman told court she screamed in pain and anger, attracting the attention of the man’s wife, who had been asleep. “When I explained to his wife what had transpired, he came back, kicked and hit me,” she said.

The woman reported the matter to police and later to Independent Police Oversight Authority.

The woman presented letters from FIDA Kenya, Ministry of Labour, Kenya Human Rights Commission and Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) where she went to seek help to get her Sh13,000 settled.

Court delays

On April 4, Awour reported the delay of her case to Ombudsman.

She reported that even after reporting the matter at Pangani Police Station some years ago, the case had been adjourned frequently without a strong reason.

She requested the commission to compel the court to fast-track the matter for her safety, the court documents shows.

The commission called the Kibera court and confirmed that all the arrangements had been made and that case will be speed up.

The matter had come up last Thursday for Noor’s defence and the doctor’s testimony. But the prosecution said that the doctor was held up elsewhere.

The magistrate ordered the doctor to avail himself on May 14 to testify on the matter failure to which an arrest warrant will be issued against him.

He ordered the complainant to report the threat to the police and get the OB number.

The man has been charged with sexual and physical assault, refusal to remit salary and hindering burial of a body.

He is accused of inserting his fingers into the private parts of Awour and touching her breast, buttocks and private parts indecently.

He has denied the charges and last Thursday, his witness told court that Awour was not assaulted but she was only protesting her unpaid salaries.

The witness told court that Awour decided to shout demanding her salary from the employer but nobody assaulted her.

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