Sexual and gender based violence: The Kenyan situation


Stopping sexual and gender based violence is a multi-sectoral approach

Stopping sexual and gender based violence is a multi-sectoral approach

In Kenyan communities, wife beating was a common occurrence. The women suffered at the hands of men because this was considered a disciplinary measure. Since the menfolk were dominant they were supposed to inflict pain and cause emotional turmoil to women to control them. In modern times such acts disregard the law particularly on human rights. The constitution of Kenya spells out the rights of each person alongside 

Hiding behind this veil has contributed to these modern times abuse on women. Every day a woman somewhere suffers abuse, is violated adding to the alarming statistics of gender based violence incidences. 

In 1993, the first attempts to clearly define sexual and gender based violence was made at the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.

It’s defined: Any harmful act that is perpetrated against one person’s will and that is based on socially ascribed (gender) differences between males and females.  It includes acts that inflict physical, mental, or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. 

SGBV entails widespread human rights violations, and is often linked to unequal gender relations within communities and abuses of power.  According to Human Rights Activists, violence against women is rooted in gender inequality.   It arises from the unequal power relationships between men and women.

 It can take the form of sexual violence or persecution by the authorities, or can be the result of discrimination embedded in legislation or prevailing societal norms and practices. It can be both a cause of forced displacement and an intolerable part of the displacement experience.

Women’s subordinate status to men in many societies, coupled with a general acceptance of interpersonal violence as a means of resolving conflict, renders women disproportionately vulnerable to violence from all levels of society: individual men, within the family and community, and by the state.

According to statistics from the Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC) 45% of women between ages 15 – 49 in Kenya have experienced either physical or sexual violence with women and girls accounting for 90% of the gender based violence (GBV) cases reported. One in five Kenyan women (21%) has experienced sexual violence

The impact of SGBV is devastating. The individual women who are victims of such violence often experience life-long emotional distress, mental health problems and poor reproductive health, as well as being at higher risk of acquiring HIV and intensive long-term users of health services.

In addition, the cost to women, their children, families and communities is a significant obstacle to reducing poverty, achieving gender equality and ensuring a peaceful transition for post-conflict societies.

 This, in conjunction with the mental and physical health implications of gender-based violence, impacts on a state or region’s ability to develop and construct a stable, productive society, or reconstruct a country in the wake of conflict.

Culture has been cited as the leading cause of violence against women. Some men it seems still subscribe to outdated traditions e.g. that battering a woman is seen as a way of discipline and is acceptable.

Financial insecurity has also been said to be a factor. The role of a man has been established as that of a leader and a provider and in some cases where a man fails to establish his authority in these areas, he ends up resorting to physical abuse.

Alcohol and drugs have also led many men, unfortunately, into violence against women. Cases of men coming home drunk and mercilessly beating and defiling their spouses and children have made news.

By Don King

The next article will handle the legal framework and challenges on SGBV.



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