Grandfathers have been listed as the leading perpetrators of sexual violence against young girls. A report released by the National Syndemic Diseases and Control Council stated this. The government linked the spike in SGBV due to the lockdowns that started during the Covid-19 pandemic. Beforehand, a Kenya National Bureau of Statistics 2019 report shows that romantic spouses carry out most sexual violence. By December 2020, there was a 360% increase in calls to sexual violence helplines.
Many survivors may feel unsafe at home when grandfathers and other family members are responsible for the sexual violence they experience. During and after the pandemic, women and girls became more dependent on husbands, fathers, and other patriarchs. This is because girls couldn’t attend school, and women lost their jobs. The restrictions on movement also prevented them from receiving assistance.
Other reports show that girls suffer a lot of sexual harassment from boda boda operators. In Kwale County, forced early marriages are frequent. Young girls are also forced into prostitution. They are also at high risk of sexual violence from fathers and stepfathers. The 2022 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey lists the highest incidences of domestic sexual violence in Bungoma 30%, Murang’a 24%, Homa Bay 23%, and Embu 22%.
Measures to reduce cases of Sexual Gender-Based Violence
Many of the government’s responses to sexual violence seem tailor-made to provide resources for the survivors. There are multiple health centres to help reduce the risk of STI infections and unwanted pregnancy. But are there ways to prevent an increase in future cases?
UN Women states that the first step is believing survivors. In addition, creating a safe space stops the cycle of abuse. Victims shouldn’t be interrogated over what they were wearing or drinking. This also gets rid of victim blaming.
There should also be programs to teach young children about body autonomy and consent. It can be a part of robust sex education or general conversation. Empowering young men and women to advocate for safety reduces cases of sexual gender-based violence. Individuals can also be trained to look out for signs of abuse and ways to help.
The government needs more accessible services for survivors of sexual violence, especially in rural areas. The Kenya Bureau of Standards reports shows that most victims of sexual assault knew where to find assistance and could report the incident to a trusted confidant. The Gender Violence Recovery Centre provides clear steps on what to do after an attack, including the emergency numbers for child abuse (116) and gender based violence (1195). Other numbers include:
- 1517 – United Nations High Commission for Refugees toll-free number
- 0800720309 – Danish Refugee Council (DRC) toll-free number
- 0800-720600 -Telecounselling AMANI Counselling Center
- 0770451236 / 0777784009- Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
- 0704-873342 -National Council of Churches Kenya Health coordinator
- 1196 – Childline
- 0711400506 – Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hotline
- 0800720121 – Liverpool Voluntary Counselling and Testing toll-free number
- 999 / 112 – Kenya police emergency hotline
More formal support services are needed in rural areas. The centres to help survivors of sexual violence can be too far away for them to travel. Some counties, such as Bomet, have no shelters.
Research shows that providing self-administered rape kits, which collect DNA material to prove rape cases, can help better prosecute perpetrators of sexual violence. Rape kits contain swabs that collect DNA evidence. They also improve post-assault care standards. As a result, survivors can get treatment immediately.
Since family members are currently the largest perpetrators of sexual violence, many survivors need shelters outside their homes. The government should invest more funding for shelters and rescues for survivors of sexual violence. They can also better fund existing centres providing shelter for survivors of domestic abuse.
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