An estimated 23.6 per cent of Kenyans have witnessed or heard cases of domestic violence in their communities since the introduction of COVID-19 containment measures.
This is according to a 2020 study by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. The National Gender and Equality Commission now says, “The commencement of the second wave of COVID -19 infections in October 2020, raises concern that cases of gender-based violence may continue increasing if deliberate and innovative measures are not put in place to effectively respond, manage and prevent them.”
The concerns come as the World comes together to commemorate the commencement of the 2020 International Campaign against Gender-Based Violence, dubbed “16 Days of Activism” which will run until 10th December 2020.
“The Commission joins Kenya, the UN and the globe at large to reflect, take stock and formulate measures that will contribute to ending violence against women and girls. The theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism campaign 2020 is “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”
The Commission says Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is a manifestation of the existing power inequalities between women and men, girls and boys and encompasses a wide array of human rights violations.
“It takes multiple forms including physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence. Kenya has over the years recorded high rates of violence against women and girls including intimate partner violence, child pregnancies, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early and forced child marriages,” Commission Chairperson Dr, Joyce M. Mutinda said.
Kenya has instituted various legal and policy reforms, invested in the establishment of institutions to prevent, respond and manage GBV and initiated innovative behavioural and communications programs to end GBV.
The Country is also a signatory to several international and regional conventions and treaties committing to ending GBV against women and girls.
In 2019 during the International Conference on Population and Development+25 Summit held in Nairobi, President Uhuru Kenyatta committed to eliminate FGM by 2022 and all forms of GBV and harmful practices by 2030.
The Commission says Kenya is experiencing increasing cases of abduction of teenage girls and boys who are then exposed to pornographic materials, drugs and substance abuse, and sexual activities.
“Sexual attacks directed to girls with disabilities and older women are also on the rise. There are more cases of online sexual harassment as well. We have also observed an emerging culture of silence among victims of GBV perhaps due to confinement of persons at home and feeling of hopelessness. These incidences are estimated to increase during the December festive season when most families and communities venture into fun and celebrations,” Mutinda said.
Mutinda is now urging state and non-state actors to focus on these emerging drivers of GBV. “The scale-up of the National Response Plans for COVID-19 and subsequent implementation of Economic Recovery Strategy further presents the government and development partners with opportunities to continue funding and investment in GBV programs including the collection of timely data.”
She said the Commission remains committed to promoting gender equality and freedom from discrimination as mandated by the Constitution of Kenya.
The Commission further commits to continue in its endeavour to address GBV by holding duty bearers to account for measures put in place to end GBV.
” We shall continue to call on the justice sector to serve expeditious and firm justice to survivors and reprimand violators. And to this end, we join the rest of the World in the call for ‘Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect, to End GBV against Women and Girls,” Mutinda said.