Communities have normalised violence against women and girls
Violence against women and girls though the most prevalent form of human rights violation, remains the least spoken about as it is shrouded in a conspiracy of silence.
It also remains largely unreported or when reported, retracted and settled thereby frustrating the pursuit of justice and ability therein to detract actual and potential perpetrators.
This calls for an improvement in the ability of national and county level institutions to tackle violence against women and girls, crime and inter-communal conflict.
This can be done in various ways including increased reporting of violence against women and girls as well as improved community policing and police oversight across the country.
Institutions working on safety and security are expected to provide more effective, accountable and responsive services to a public that is actively engaged in improving safety and security.
The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2014 presents statistics which show that women are more likely to experience physical violence committed by their spouse and or partner.
The KDHS also indicates that sexual violence committed by a spouse and or partner is not as prevalent as physical violence. The overall picture painted, however, shows that one in every three women has suffered one form of abuse or other before their 18th birthday. Across the country 49 percent of women ages 15-49 have experience physical violence.
These statistics are further reinforced by the Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC), a department of the Nairobi Women’s Hospital which show that the total number of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) cases reported in 2014-2015 were 3,247. The cases almost tripled from 2013-2014 to 2014-2015 as compared to the immediate year to year statistics. The GVRC notes there was an explosion of domestic violence reported during the same period from 488 in 2014 to 1,798 in 2015.
These statistics are harrowing and indicate that at least “one of five women face sexual violence and 45 percent of women between 15 years to 45 years have experienced physical or sexual violence in Kenya”. Notably, a girl is raped every thirty minutes; a forum held by the GVRC was informed in 2014.
The Kenya Demographic Health Survey indicates that 38 percent of ever-married women ages 15-49 have ever experienced physical violence committed by their husband and or partner. Additionally, nine percent of ever-married men age 15-49 have ever experienced physical violence committed by their wife and or partner. About 14 percent of women and four percent of men have ever experienced sexual violence committed by spouse or partner.
Among those who are currently married, however, women and men who have married more than once are more likely to have ever experienced physical or sexual violence than women and men who have married only once.
Women and men with incomplete primary level of education were more likely to have experienced physical violence. Women in the highest wealth quintile were least likely to have experienced violence, although the relationship between household wealth and experience of violence was not as clear for men.
Though the overall picture is alarming, women in certain regions in Western, Nyanza and Rift Valley reported higher levels of physical and sexual violence committed by a spouse and or partner than women in other regions; approximately one-half have ever experienced physical violence compared with the low reported in North Eastern region (12 percent) which has been attributed to low reporting.
However, forms of GBV that cut across all the country include rape, sexual abuse, forced prostitution, early marriages, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), widow disinheritance as well as widow eviction.
In Wajir and Marsabit, only one in four girls attend school with statistics showing that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early marriages are the most prevalent forms of violence against women and girls.
Although Female Genital Mutilation prevalence is as high as 97 percent, there is indication that due to the enactment of the Prohibition against the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011, the prevalence may have gone down though only significantly since it’s deeply entrenched in culture.
Across the country, lifetime prevalence of GBV was 38 percent for women and 20.9 percent for men while current prevalence was 37.7 percent for women and 48.6 percent for men.
Within the said regions, Nakuru is one of the counties with high levels of gender based violence. This is according to the 2015 National Crime Research Centre statistics which notes that women had a 38 percent lifetime prevalence of GBV.
Against this backdrop, experts say that all efforts must be employed to fight the scourge.