Over the past several years, hundreds of Kenyan girls have gone to the police in the town of Meru to report that they had been raped. The officers responded with disbelief. They yelled at the girls, blamed and humiliated the victims, and refused to take action.

The girls, determined to stand up for their rights, took an extraordinary step forward. They went to the children’s charity, Ripples International, saying that they were raped by their fathers, uncles, police officers and neighbours. Ripples International with the help of Toronto-based human rights organization, The Equality Effect, took the case on behalf of 240 girls to the High Court of Kenya to force the police to investigate and prosecute the crimes.

In May 2013, the girls won a striking victory. In a landmark decision, the court ordered the police to enforce the rape laws and take action against the perpetrators. The court said that by failing to act on the rape cases, the police had created a “climate of impunity” for sexual violence against girls. As a result, perpetrators know that they can commit crimes against innocent children without any consequences — which allow the crimes to continue. Following the ruling, police in Kenya who fail to enforce the law in cases of rape will now face arrest, prison sentences or fines for contempt of court.

A lawyer for the girls, Fiona Sampson, said “The court’s ruling recognizes that the failure to provide girls with access to justice is a violation of their human rights and cannot be tolerated.” As a mother and grandmother, the protection of children’s rights is of crucial importance to me. The court’s decision is a victory for girls in Kenya, across Africa and around the world.