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Why we need a new global treaty to curb violence against women

 Global crises such as climate change, armed conflict and the abusive use of technology are driving a rise in violence against women and girls. [iStockphoto]

A report released by the global women's rights advocacy coalition, 'Every woman treaty', details the horrific rise in violence around the world – global crises such as climate change, armed conflict and the abusive use of technology are driving a rise in violence against women and girls.

 Similarly, the volley of reports and papers released to mark International Women’s Day this year indicated that the plight of women’s rights remains grim globally.

The situation in Kenya mirrors this sad state of affairs. Violence against women and girls continues almost unabated. In April and May, there were numerous reports on violence against women and girls. Maryanne Wangari, a 22-year-old student, had been missing for one week when her lifeless body was discovered in Nyangores River.

At Kipsigis Girls High School, a 17-year-old female student was sexually assaulted by a teacher. The body of 20-year-old Adah Nyambura Ameru, a first-year student at Maasai Mara University, was found in a bush near the campus; she had been raped, burnt with an iron and strangled.

Police officers in Eldoret continue to investigate the murder of second-year university student Stacy Chemutai, who died after her boyfriend allegedly stabbed her. In Khwisero, Kakamega, a 16-year-old girl was defiled by a police officer in a prison cell she and a friend had been remanded in as children in need of care and protection after their arrest.

A 17-year-old student in Siaya is nursing injuries after her estranged boyfriend attacked her with a panga. The girl sustained deep cuts all over her body. For all these women and girls – and many others whose cases have gone unreported - their aspirations and potentials for fruitful lives and careers have been tragically and forcefully taken away.

 Violence against women and girls continues almost unabated in Kenya. [iStockphoto]

Silent pandemic

These cases indicate that the protective measures and laws Kenya has in place are not doing enough to ensure that the country is safe for women and girls. While the release of the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Guide by the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in August 2022 is a welcome step, the country requires a more cohesive approach to something that is undermining the security and well-being of Kenyan women and girls – and a platform to move this issue onto the political radar.

A growing global movement of women's rights activists is calling on world leaders to advocate for a new global treaty to curb violence against women and girls, pointing out that this silent worldwide pandemic affects not just women, but is eroding societies as a whole. Besides its devastating consequences to families, its economic impact is just as significant; intimate partner violence costs nations more than conflict and terrorism combined.

It is as obvious as it is tragic that the patchwork of protective measures that are expressed at best at regional level do not make up for the lack of a binding international framework specific to violence against women and girls, leaving us trying to plug gaping holes in the normative, geographic and enforcement landscape related to women’s safety.

To address this, working groups and other experts of the proposed treaty summarised current data and best practices into five proven interventions - legal reform, training and accountability, violence prevention education, and services for survivors, and providing each with adequate funding, data and monitoring for compliance.

When applied concurrently, these interventions work in concert to drastically lower rates of violence. The model is simple; new legislation is backed by training for staff in the health, justice, security, and service sectors, supported by national campaigns and reinforced by a legal system that holds perpetrators accountable.

If President Ruto is truly intent on casting himself as a new generational leader, there is no better way for him to set himself apart than by making a pact with Kenyan women by joining the call for treaty.

Ms Ng'inja-Croft is a lawyer and a consultant with the United Nations

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