Break the Silence on GBV

We recognize that the issue of GBV is complex, affects families and GOVERNMENT CAN NOT WIN THE FIGHT SINGLE HANDEDLY

By Constance Ndeleko

According to a press statement released on the 22nd of April 2021 cabinet secretary, Prof. Margaret Kobia stated, “I capture deep concerns Kenyans have regarding increased cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and domestic violence in the Country.”

Gender Based Violence is any act that results in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life perpetrated against a person based on socially-ascribed (gender) differences between males and females

The statement further elaborates statistics noted between January and December 2020, where a total of 5009 cases were recorded through the National GBV toll-free helpline 1195, that showed an increase of 1,411(36%)reported from the  previous year. Data also indicates that Nairobi, Kakamega, Kisumu, Nakuru and Kiambu Counties reported the highest cases of GBV.

There is global recognition that gender-based violence (GBV) significantly impacts public health and human rights an estimate 3,000 survivors of GBV report at GVRC-NWH every year

As a result of increased cases of GBV during the COVID-19 pandemic, H.E the president of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta directed the National Crime Research Centre to carry out a study to establish the causes of the increased cases of GBV. The findings of the study proved that; the number of GBV cases recorded between January and June, 2020 had an increase of 92% compared with previous year (2019) period.

One-in-Three Kenyan females has experienced an episode of sexual violence before attaining age 18

(KENYA VAC 2010)

Notably, the statement also quotes that the factors contributing to GBV from the study as: alcohol, drug and substance abuse; poverty; family/domestic disputes, retrogressive cultural beliefs and practices; poor parenting/upbringing and moral decadence; identity crisis among the youthful population; and inadequate support system. The most common forms of GBV identified in the study were, physical assault, rape/attempted rape, murder, sexual offences, defilement, grievous harm, physical abuse, child marriages, psychological torture and child neglect.

With the above data the government of Kenya took steps to mitigate and de-escalate the vice by deploying a multi-pronged approach. In September 2020, the Cabinet approved an inter-agency strategy that includes, stakeholders to deal with the matter; six (6) Ministries (Public service and Gender, Interior, Education, ICT, Health and Labor), County Governments, development partners, and other non-state actors.

Further, the Government in recognition of the contribution of COVID-19 pandemic to the GBV crisis made investment through social safety nets cash transfers. Other interventions are through affirmative funds to provide support to self-help groups. As a result, loans to the tune of KShs WEF 300M, UWEZO 60M and Youth Fund 80M are disbursed every month.

Factors such as unequal gender power dynamics in relationships, where men’s control over women including decision-making, rigid gender roles and low negotiation skills among girls and women, and inequitable gender and social norms are all associated with violence.

Community-level tolerance of violence against women and girls also facilitates perpetration of GBV

Previous research from Kenya suggests that girls who are victims of violence may experience feelings of hopelessness, anxiety and depression, as well as suicidal thoughts, which may also expose them to further negative health outcomes.

As a mitigation measure to help curb this issue, the government availed to the public the use of:

  • Toll-free hotlines which include: the National GBV Helpline 1195,National Police Helpline–0800730999under Police care, and Child Helpline-116 to provide services such as anonymous reporting, assistance to survivors, tele-counselling and referrals for medical and legal services;
  • Prevention and response structures through County GBV Working Groups established by the National and County Governments which consists of: law enforcement agents, social workers, medical personnel, and non-state actors to facilitate the prevention and response to GBV;
  • With support from the National Government Affirmative Action Fund the Rescue Centers for GBV were established to support survivors in West Pokot, Bungoma, Vihiga, Meru and Migori counties.
  • Additionally, there are 36 shelters operated by Civil Society Organizations in 13 Counties of Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa, Kwale, Samburu, Kajiado, Murang’a, Laikipia, Kiambu, Nyeri, Meru, Machakos, and Makueni;and
  • Continued sensitization and awareness in the national and regional media and within the established National Government Administration Officers (NGAO), in partnership with other stakeholders.
  • To this end, prioritized programs targeting men and boys as allies, advocates, role models and change agents, championing advocacy efforts against all forms of GBV to mobilize collective action in the communities.

The CS also said that, “despite all the above interventions, we still have a long way to go. We recognize that the issue of GBV is complex, affects families and GOVERNMENT CAN NOT WIN THE FIGHT SINGLE HANDEDLY. All sections of our society have an important role to play whether big or small in preventing GBV and save the society.”

No one is safe till we are all safe. Let us make it our responsibility to voice up GBV in the community. Today, we share the following important key messages to all Kenyans:

1. Komesha Dhuluma/Stop Gender Based Violence, call 1195.

2. Any form of violence is wrong. Do not be afraid to ask for help, Break the SILENCE.

3. If you feel unsafe in or around your home, if you are harmed or feel threatened, intimidated, or harassed, Break the SILENCE.

4. The lockdown and curfew are no excuse for Gender Based Violence. Break the SILENCE.

5. During times of crisis, negative coping mechanisms can result to GBV. If you feel unsafe, please Break the SILENCE.6.

Do you know anyone going through domestic violence and needs help? Don’t sit back, break the SILENCE.

Finally she asked members of the public to join hands and work collaboratively towards ending the vice before it becomes a normal in violating human rights. Stand against GBV by reporting incidences, supporting victims, speaking out against harmful and retrogressive cultural beliefs and practices

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