As Kenyans join the rest of the world in marking 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which kicks off every 25th November, various stakeholders are joining hands towards prevention and elimination of Gender Based Violence (GBV).
The campaign’s theme for this year is “Unite! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls.”
According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) 2022 report, over 40 percent of women have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner. Additionally, around one in four girls get married early, and about one in five undergo female genital mutilation (FGM).
During an X (formerly Twitter) Space on November 28, the National Policy Dialogue on Ending Gender-Based Violence organized by Amref Health Africa in Kenya, Elizabeth Musikali, a Law lecturer at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa and an advocate of the High Court of Kenya listed the rise in use of digital media and technology among the major causes of GBV.
“Most young people use technology in a wrong way, because they believe they can say or post anything without being seen,” said the advocate.
She cited lack of education and awareness on respectable behaviors, substance abuse, and normalization of bad behavior and cases taking long before survivors get justice as some of the other causes.
Musikali made reference to out-of-court settlements, where families of survivors and suspects come into agreement as one of the major issues, dragging the feet of prevention and elimination of GBV in Kenya.
However, Davis Ochieng Okeyo, Senior Program Officer at the National Gender Equality Commission (NGEC) said huge strides have been made towards prevention and elimination of GBV. Okeyo said policies and laws are being effectively applied where necessary, to act as a deterrent.
“Violence occurs in private spaces. The protection against domestic violence act is one of the most progressive laws on reporting GBV cases,” he stated. Okeyo added that toll free numbers such as 1195 and 116 for reporting of cases have proved to be effective in informing action against suspects.
In a bid to tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse, Okeyo said the directorate of children services launched the 2022-26 National Plan of Action on Tackling Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (OSCEA). In addition, the children act 2021 also has robust provisions for prosecution of perpetrators of OSCEA.
Okeyo said it’s important to have open and honest conversations with children, and ensure they feel comfortable telling a trusted adult if they are contacted by someone they don’t know.
Additionally, Musikali said the gender desks at police stations have been key in assisting survivors, even though challenges still abound.
“Most of these gender desks are either not manned or if they are manned, they are not manned by police officers who are capable of dealing with victims of abuse or sexual abuse.”
Charles Olwamba, a Program Officer at Amref Health Africa, advocated for the abandonment of societal norms that glorify gender-based violence.
He noted that tackling GBV cannot be left to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) alone, adding that it calls for a multi-sectoral approach to win the war against the acts.
Story sourced from the Nairobi Review.