Coast records high sexual violence cases as more victims speak out

Gender-based violence cases have increased from 1865 recorded last year to 4,477 cases reported as of June 2022. [iStockphoto]

On July 14, three men were arraigned in Mombasa Law Courts and charged with sodomizing two boys aged 12 and 17 years, in 2017 in Likoni, Mtongwe area.

Omari Mwalimu, Surow Jimale and Colling Godeka were charged before Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku with defilement of the two minors.

They denied the charges and were released on bond.

The investigation officer told the court that more victims have come out and the three suspects will be facing more charges.

Mombasa County Gender Based Violence (GBV) Mental Health Programme Coordinator, Selina Kithinji, has raised an alarm over the increased cases of sexual violence and GBV in the county.

Kithinji noted the cases have increased from 1865 recorded last year to 4,477 cases reported as of June 2022.

She said that with heightened sensitisation and awareness, more victims have come out to report the cases. 

She said since the establishment of a GBV prevention and response unit in 2019, the community has become aware of different aspects of SGBV and is willing to report.

“The number might seem to have increased but the fact is, cases have been there but were not being reported. Only five facilities were providing GBV services unlike now, where, 24 health facilities are providing such services,” said Kithinji.

The coordinator said that most of the perpetrators involved in SGBV cases are relatives or people well known to the victims.

She cites Kisauni, Likoni and Jomvu sub-counties as areas with prevalent cases of SGBV.

According to the Federation of Woman Lawyers (FIDA), Senior legal counsel Mombasa region, Terry Mwongeli, between April 5, 2020, to December 31, 2021, a total number of 1,621 cases were recorded through FIDA toll-free line as well as physical attendances.

As of February 28, I,670 SGBV cases were recorded by the organisation.

She said the emerging trends of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) since 2019 range from intimate partner violence, widow inheritance, child neglect, wife and widow eviction, sodomy, defilement, gang rape and domestic violence.

“GBV is a national calamity, it affects everyone but in the coastal region, we can highlight, Kilifi which has the highest rate of teen pregnancies, followed by Lamu, Taita Taveta, Tana River where there are high cases of FGM and Mombasa which experiences high cases of SGBV,” said Mwongeli.

 Kithinji, who also coordinates the Adolescent Health Programme, said teenage pregnancies are a result of defilement and the community should refer to them as ‘defilement pregnancies’.

“Let us tell the community the truth and facts, that is when this problem will reduce. What happened before these teenagers became pregnant? Some adult somewhere took advantage of their innocence,” said Kithinji.

Kithinji said most people are not aware of the Sexual Offences Act while others do not view SGBV as anything bad. To some, it is a normal thing.

“Most of the cases are perpetrated by close relatives. The department initiated a campaign on the male movement on ending GBV. We are sensitizing male youths and men to be girls’ keepers by playing a protective role,” said Kithinji.

She said the Department of Health Services has created awareness of the importance of seeking help for rape victims.

“We encourage rape victims to report the cases to police and further, seek treatment from hospitals within 72 hours to prevent HIV and pregnancies,” she dais.  

Further, she noted, evidence can be collected within that period to help in convicting perpetrators.

“Training of community health volunteers and youth champions on effective referrals and GBV referral pathways has also helped much on linkage. The County has a very good referral network with all key players in GBV response,” said Kithinji.

Kithinji said Stawisha Pwani has been instrumental in training health care workers to enhance the quality of SGBV services.

She said the community needs to understand what SGBV is and therefore, information packaging is key in helping the community understand ways to eradicate the vice.

Statistics from GBV Recovery Center at Coast General Hospital (CGH) indicate that the number of women admitted over domestic violence in 2019 was 35 compared to 14 cases recorded in 2018.

Among all the cases, women are the most affected with 39 women reporting violent cases compared to 10 males who reported.

Those affected by the violence fall between the ages of 20 to 49 years with few instances of minors being involved.

Former Kisauni OCPD Julius Kirago said most GBV and domestic violence cases fail to reach the prosecution stage because the victims are quick to forgive and withdraw the complaint against their abusers.

He said most of the cases reported at the station end up being withdrawn and resolved at home. Kirago said there is a need for administration officers in locations and sub-locations to sensitize the community as a way of reducing GBV.

“There is a need for counsellors and officers to be placed at location and sub-locations to work with chiefs and police in sensitizing the community to reduce these cases of GBV,” said Kirago.