Absence of support for GBV survivors exacerbates vice

Kenyans took to the streets to  lobby and advocate for the “Protection Against Domestic  Violence Bill is which now a law which defines the scope of domestic violence to include forced wife inheritance, widow cleansing, interference from in laws, economic abuse and any other conduct against a person where such conduct may cause imminent harm to the safety, health or well being of that person. Photo: File
Kenyans took to the streets to lobby and advocate for the “Protection Against Domestic Violence Bill is which now a law which defines the scope of domestic violence to include forced wife inheritance, widow cleansing, interference from in laws, economic abuse and any other conduct against a person where such conduct may cause imminent harm to the safety, health or well being of that person. Photo: File

Experts are concerned that violence against women and girls is so prevalent that it is now becoming acceptable in the society.

This comes at a time when a series of reports have confirmed the concerns.

The impact of Violence against women and girls (VAWG) ranges from immediate to long term multiple physical, sexual and mental complications and in many instances, death.

Violence against women and girls, which has had a red flag raised by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon further affects a woman’s or girl’s wellbeing hindering them from exploiting their full potential and or participating fully in society.

Families are also significantly affected and it is for these reasons that the civil society organisations have over the years mobilized to address the vice.

Though violence against women and girls is prevalent across the country, in some counties in Kenya it’s more manifested than others.

Kilifi is among the leading counties where retrogressive culture and overall marginalisation of the region has continued to facilitate violence against women and girls.

Report

In 2015, a new report by the Kilifi County Referral Hospital shows that 367 underage girls from the area were reported to have delivered at the institution in the past nine months after either being defiled or engaging in incestuous early sex.

Kilifi County Referral Hospital GBV desk managed to record 160 cases of defiled school girls while 207 of the underage girls were admitted at the hospital maternity wing for delivery after getting pregnant this year. An estimated 60 percent of girls in Kilifi are married of before their 18th birthday.

Additionally in Kilifi, statistics show a spectrum of perceptions in regard to violence against women and girls. These perceptions put into statistics showed that only about 12.5 percent of the community said domestic violence was an issue, only 4.2 percent felt that verbal violence and or abusive language was an issue. However, a whopping 97.9 percent said that rape and or defilement is a real issue in Kilifi County.

Statistics

Besides Kilifi, in Bungoma County the situation is strikingly similar with statistics showing that approximately 40.6 percent of women between the ages 15 and 49 have ever experienced either physical or sexual violence which is the second highest rate after Kisumu with 55.6 percent.

According to a baseline survey by the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA) in Kisumu County, the major form of violence against women was forced wife inheritance. Women were forced to be inherited at the risk of eviction or disinheritance.

Another form of violation against women and girls was underage prostitution. It was noted that in Kisumu, girls as young as 13 were in the streets in the various nightclubs.

Prevalence

In Baringo County, an estimated 45 percent of ever-married women have ever experienced physical violence. Fourteen percent of ever-married women have ever experienced sexual violence. Additionally, 41 percent of ever-married women have ever experienced physical or sexual violence.

Female Genital Mutilation is still high in Baringo Coiunty with pilot surveys showing that in December 2014 alone, about 700 girls underwent the outlawed practice. This survey was one among several conducted by various stakeholders including the Women Rights Institute.

However, the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) notes the statistics could be worse but this has been hampered by lack of instruments for data collection. The Commission points to lack of credible holistic data that handicaps all actors from analysing the situation and assessing cost implications thus retarding progress and preventive measures to curb the vice.

Experts

Experts now warn that for any interventions to work there is a need to achieve better crime statistics through improved formal and informal data and statistics on crime and violence around the eight counties.

In the regions above mentioned, types of GBV cases that have been considered unnatural and unacceptable in African culture, such as incest, sodomy and child defilement are said to be reportedly on the rise.

Respondents in various reports have also revealed a glaring absence of support to survivors of GBV as the chain of support right from reporting to the police, through to healthcare and the judicial process is slow, ineffective or hardly in place. This emboldens the perpetrators and increases the vulnerability of the survivors.

Thirdly, various forms of GBV are accommodated, justified and even institutionalized in certain Kenyan communities and cultures.

The situation is, therefore, dire and many experts are calling for the relevant offices to take responsibility in curbing the scourge and in protecting women and girls.