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Sexual Gender based violence concerns ahead of polls

By Amina Wako February 19th, 2022 2 min read

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have called on authorities to be deliberate on taming cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) as the country heads to the polls.

Speaking during a Twitter Space hosted by the Sustainable Development Goals Kenya Forum (SDGs Kenya Forum) on Wednesday evening, Kenyans and mostly youth were urged to expose the perpetrators of all forms of gender-based violence.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Kenya Forum Country Coordinator Florence Syevuo specifically urged County Governments to establish safe houses.

“We already have safe houses in Makueni and Nairobi Counties. These facilities will not only provide a lifeline for women survivors, but they can also play a key role in raising awareness of gender-based violence in the community,” she said.

Syevuo further called for a multi-stakeholder approach in fighting gender-based violence, saying it would be more effective.

Such vices are said to drastically increase during the electioneering period, with women and girls most affected.

Moses Gowi, a Communications Assistant at the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), pointed out that existing political tensions raise serious concerns over a possible escalation of violence in the run-up and during the polls.

We highlighted the outcome of a recently released report on sexual violence as a political tool during elections in Kenya.

According to Gowi, the report shows how entrenched impunity has created a favorable climate for the perpetration of election-related SGBV over the past years.

“It emphasizes that police forces have so far failed in their responsibility to conduct effective and credible investigations into the sexual violence committed during the 2017 elections and previous elections, leaving the vast majority of survivors with no access to justice,” he said while citing the report.

According to a joint report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC in the absence of urgent State action, SGBV that has characterized past election-related violence will be repeated.

In 2013, while electoral violence did not reach the magnitude and gravity experienced in 2007-2008, verbal and physical violence, threats, and intimidation against several female politicians were reported.

During the 2017 election period, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) documented at least 201 cases of sexual violence, in particular gang rapes, concluding that sexual violence represented the second most crucial form of election-related violence, after physical injuries.

Any action intended to prevent and combat election-related political violence, Gowi said, must fully address the “gender dimension of the violence to be effective.”

Tony Olelo from the Youth Advisory United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) spoke about Policare, integrated response to sexual and gender-based violence in Kenya, launched in 2021.

The current SGBV protection environment in Kenya, according to Olelo, is fraught with challenges and filled with opportunities, which should be carefully considered when devising responses.

Most victims and survivors of SGBV often blame the police for conducting shoddy investigations hampering their quest for justice.

This has often led to the perpetrators walking scot-free or being acquitted in court for lack of evidence.

According to available statistics, violence is daily for women and girls across Kenya.

Data provided by the government indicates that 45 percent of women and girls aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence, and 14 percent have experienced sexual violence.

Many cases are not reported to authorities, and few women get justice or receive medical care, a trend the government through police is hoping to reverse.