Kenya protest after alleged gang-rapists ordered to cut grass as punishment

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Kenya's capital Nairobi Thursday after police punished the alleged rapists of a 16-year-old schoolgirl by making them cut their compound's lawn.

The girl, widely referred to as "Liz," was gang-raped after returning from her grandfather's funeral in the village of Busia in western Kenya in June, women's rights groups say.

After the assault she was thrown into an outdoor pit latrine, breaking her back. When she regained consciousness she crawled out of the sewer and was discovered by villagers who heard her screams, activists say.

The girl, who is now in a wheelchair, later identified three of the six alleged attackers and villagers rounded them up and brought them to the police station in Tingolo. According to activists the men were arrested for assault and detained but were never officially prosecuted -- and were instead ordered to cut the grass around the police compound before being released.

Her alleged rapists' light sentence has sparked outrage in the country, which experiences high rates of domestic violence and sexual discrimination despite being one of the most developed countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Thursday's demonstration, dubbed "Keep off our panties," was organized by an umbrella group of campaigners fighting to end violence against women including the Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW), African Women's Communication and Development Network (Femnet) and Youth Deliver.

Women's rights group Avaaz, one of the organizers, also drew up an online petition calling for justice that has gathered more than 1.3 million signatures.

According to Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper, the protesters planned to deliver it to the office of Kenya's Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo.

"The organizations have resulted to a radical measure to call for the attention of the state and the need for the state to ensure action in addressing rape and specifically amplify the call for arrest of perpetrators of the gang-rape of the 16-year-old Liz," said Saida Ali, COVAW's executive director.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.