Data on violence against women in Kenya gives a look into a bleak reality.
Agnes Tirop, a Kenyan world record holder, was discovered stabbed to death last week at her house in the western town of Iten.
The fact that her husband was detained in connection with the killing has brought domestic violence to the forefront in Kenya. Yohannes Dibaba Wado, a population and reproductive health expert, discusses how common it is and what has to be done to solve it.
Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, is a major public health issue across the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over one-third of women will suffer physical or sexual abuse from an intimate partner at some point in their lives. According to the WHO, intimate partners are responsible for up to 38% of all female homicides.
According to the most recent national data (released in 2014), around 41% of Kenyan women had suffered physical or sexual abuse from their spouses or partners at some point in their lives. About two-fifths of the women said they had been physically injured as a result of the abuse.
In Kenya, there is a scarcity of current national statistics on the prevalence of domestic violence. However, time-bound data reveals how frequently the violence may occur.
According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, one in every four women had experienced physical or sexual abuse from a partner in the 12 months leading up to the survey. This implies that it may be more common and broad than previously assumed.
The poll also revealed that, due to societal and cultural standards, a significant number of Kenyan women and men (42 percent) still feel that spousal bashing is acceptable in some circumstances. To modify uneven gender norms, such social and cultural standards must be demystified through education and community mobilisation programmes.
All nations, including Kenya, have committed to ending all kinds of gender-based violence by 2030 under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Kenya has rules and methods in place to prevent gender-based violence and respond to it. In 2014, it released the National Policy on Gender-based Violence Prevention and Response. The Kenyan constitution ensures that all citizens are protected from all forms of violence. Kenya has also accepted the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Kenya has been attempting to prevent and respond to incidents of domestic violence against women for some years, but success has been gradual. Part of the reason for this is a lack of institutional capacity.
Victims of violence don’t always report what’s going on. Less than half of the ladies sought help from any source to end the abuse they were subjected to. This occurs for a variety of reasons. One is that survivors are at greater risk because authorities have failed to ensure that they receive timely protection, medical care, and financial help.
The Kenyan government has reaffirmed its commitment to eliminating gender-based violence, which is positive.
Kenya included a gender-based violence indicator in its performance assessment framework in June 2021. This will allow for the monitoring of the enforcement and implementation of gender-based violence laws and policies. The government has also dedicated greater resources to prevention and response as a result of this commitment.
In all of the country’s main hospitals, gender-based violence recovery centres are being constructed. Gender desks have also been created in police stations in collaboration with civil society organisations such as the Coalition on Violence Against Women and the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya.
Domestic violence needs a multi-sectoral, coordinated response that encompasses all segments of society.
Various preventive and response programmes, including those developed by the WHO, UN Women, and civil society organisations, have been piloted and shown to be effective. Psychosocial assistance for victims of abuse, economic and social empowerment programmes, cash transfers, working with couples to enhance communication and relationship skills, and community mobilisation efforts to shift unfair gender norms are just a few examples of these interventions. These must be adapted and scaled up by the government so that they may be utilised across the country.
Laws and regulations relating to gender-based violence must be better enforced and implemented. This involves police training as well as medical and legal assistance to survivors of physical and sexual assault.
Law enforcement agencies and organisations that execute the national policy on gender-based violence need more advocacy and capacity building.
Community health volunteers, women’s groups, and civil society organisations must educate men, boys, and community leaders about women’s rights through community mobilisation initiatives. Women and girls must also be educated about their right to be free from violence, as well as where and how to seek help if it occurs.
All of these processes are necessary and crucial. To protect women and girls from this abuse, something must change.