Women in slums at risk as violence cases spike

By Daniel Chege and Mercy Kahenda | November 26th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300
Mombasa women and human right groups march from Sabasaba to Lights as they commemorated International Women's day in Mombasa County on Friday March 8, 2019. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Maureen writhes in pain as she cradles her baby in Kaptembwo, an informal settlement in Nakuru County.

As the world marks 16 days of activism against gender-based violence (GBV) which started yesterday, Maureen is nursing injuries she sustained in a domestic row.

The attack by her partner almost made her have a miscarriage when she was eight months pregnant.

But quick action to rush her to Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital saved her life and the baby.

She delivered the baby on April 5 and it was placed in an incubator until April 11.

“Neighbours came to my rescue as I was bleeding profusely after being beaten,” she said.

The matter was reported to Kaptembwo Police Station and booked under Occurrence Book Number 14/5/4/2020.

According to Midrift Human Rights Network (Midrift Hurinet) at least 20 cases of assault are reported weekly in Kaptembwo and Kwa Rhonda in Nakuru and Karagita in Naivasha from the time the curfew was imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Joseph Omondi, the organisation's executive director said at least 30 community health volunteers have been trained to document victims linked to respective government agencies for justice.

This is due to due to an increasing number of cases.

“It is a matter of concern that couples are attacking each other because they currently spend most of their time in the house due to restricted operation amid the fight against Covid-19,” Omondi said.
 

Requested for money

Sylvia, 25, says her partner beat her up on April 5, after she requested for groceries.

“He accused me of demanding too much from him, yet he does not have money because of the effects of the coronavirus,” she said.

Sylivia opted to buy painkillers and did not report the matter to the police.

In December 2019, Njeri Mwigi and Stella Khachina created a Facebook page titled Usikimye for their Usikimye organisation to create awareness about GBV.

Mwigi told The Standard that the GBV cases increased especially after the outbreak of Covid-19.

“The organisation had no choice but to open a safe house to accommodate and counsel the victims and their families,” she said.

She noted that the organisation has rescued 359 women, men and children.

“The rescue involves facilitating the victims to hospital, helping in court cases, reporting cases to the police and reforming them,” she said.

Data by the Usikimye organisation show that 43 per cent of women experience GBV. Men accounted for 20 per cent of the cases.

Psychological abuse

A 2020 study on GBV by Midrift Hurinet and DIGNITY-Danish Institute Against Torture found that domestic violence was rampant in informal settlements of Karagita, Kaptembwo and Kwa Rhonda.

The report, titled Gender-Based Violence in Two Informal Settlements in Nakuru County featured 301 women — 204 from Kwa Rhonda and 97 from Karagita.

The study showed that 61.8 per cent of women reported at least one type of physical violence from their husbands.

Haki Africa's Salma Hemed demonstrates injuries from a battered woman during the celebration of the International Women's day in Mombasa County on Friday March 8, 2019[Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Common forms of violence is being slapped, pushed or forced to have sex, which is marital rape.

And 16.3 per cent of the women reported psychological abuse from their husbands including insults intimidation and threats.

“Regarding the impact of violence from partners, 61.5 per cent reported that violence negatively affected their physical or mental health.

"47.5 per cent reported their ability to work in the homes or engage in income-generating activities was affected,” reads the report.

Most women (96 per cent) had been exposed to a potentially traumatic event, most commonly physical abuse in childhood via care-giver (62.5 per cent), witnessing or experiencing violence as an adult (50.8 per cent) and sexual violence (26.6 per cent).

According to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics 2015, violence is reported to have been higher in the general population.

A July 2019 study of women in Kibera slum in Nairobi reported that 86 per cent of  them reported exposure.

The report showed that 61.5 per cent of women reported violence from their husbands

At least 43.5 per cent of victims had consulted religious leaders for help with 35.6 per cent having gone to hospital, 25.2 per cent consulted village elders while only one percent reported to the police.

In April, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general called on countries to include services for addressing domestic violence in Covid-19 protocols.

Ghebreyesus said stay-at-home orders and quarantine measures aimed at preventing spread of the disease could lead to an increase in domestic violence.

Data from Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs shows an increase of least 42 per cent of gender violence cases since the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country in March.

In January, at least 50 cases were reported countrywide. The cases increased to 62 in February.

In March, at least 106 cases were reported through Gender Ministry's toll free sexual and gender based violence helpline 1195.


Gender-based violence Coronavirus pandemic