Shofco to offer free legal aid amid increasing cases of rape, defilement

A 14-year-old girl being assisted at the hospital after she was allegedly raped. [File, Standard]

Victims of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Gusii will benefit from free legal services from a Nairobi-Based Community Group.

This follows increased legal battles on GBV cases in the area, according to Shining Hope For Communities (Shofco).

According to the group, there are hundreds of unreported cases in the region that need urgent legal aid and integration of victims.

The cases range from rape, defilement, incest, child molestation and battering on both men and women.

So far, Shofco has recorded 30 cases in four sub-counties that need immediate legal aid to have perpetrators face the law.

Adams Paul, a Shofco gender coordinator, said there is a disconnect between the community and the administrators who are supposed to record reports.

"We have individuals who are ignorant of what the law says. We need to move away from the archaic processes of solving these cases. We are losing a generation because of the atrocities committed against our young children."

The organisation will offer free legal aid, advocacy and psychosocial support. "We have mediators and church elders who are available to mediate on family cases that have later turned into GBV," said Alfred Onyango.

"Counseling is expensive and it requires the support of all well-wishers. We are using football tournaments to sensitize the community and allow for integration."

Denis Mayienda, Edward Nyaanga and Lilian Bochere, who have documented the cases on behalf of Shofco, said several young girls in the community have dropped out of school due to teen pregnancies, defilement and molestation.

"There is a need to have safe houses away from this region where we can have the victims integrated and allowed to go through their education system. A cover-up of such cases remains a major challenge in our fight to end GBV," they said in their report.

The organisation covers 33 counties, with their activities involving prevention measures and creating community awareness.

"We are partnering with Community Health Volunteers in mapping out affected households. The door-to-door campaigns will help us get the right target in the fight. We need to end the silence on GBV cases. Families are normalising incest and other GBV cases in Kisii as victims go silent," said Mayienda.

Kenya Women Parliamentarians (Kewopa) has raised alarm over increased cases of sexual offences. Kewopa reports indicate that at least 21,457 children were molested in the country in 2022 with 1,019 reported in Kisii County.

"We are not moving out to create a gap but to mend the societal fabric. We need transformative approaches to teen pregnancies, FGM and HIV/Aids among school-going children," said the chairperson Leah Sopiato.

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