Kobia: Partnerships will tame rising cases of gender based violence

Ministry of Public Service and Gender CS Margaret Kobia

NAIROBI, KENYA: The government is calling for a multi-sectorial partnership approach in ending increasing cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the country.

The Ministry of Public Service and Gender says cases of SGBV have increased in the country due to restrictions following the outbreak of coronavirus.

According to CS Margaret Kobia, the National SGBV helpline 1195 has registered a steady increase of cases by 55 per cent. In May 2020, 753 cases were reported with women accounting for 67 per cent of the cases.

In June, 848 cases were reported with women accounting for 68 per cent. She says there is a high prevalence of gender-based violence (GBV) cases in Nairobi, Kakamega, Kisumu, Nakuru, and Kiambu Counties. Reporting of GBV cases is minimal in Isiolo, Samburu, Tharaka-Nithi, Garissa, and Marsabit.

“The State is concerned by the high increase of SGBV, its multi-faceted nature lends itself to a multi-sectoral approach involving several stakeholders,” said Kobia.

“I am advocating for a multi-sectoral partnership approach to address the harmful social and cultural norms that promote Gender-Based Violence at the individual, institutional and community levels,” she said.

“We need a transformative change in society, addressing traditional, cultural beliefs, and practices, through the engagement of multiple stakeholders - including men and boys, the youth, faith-based organizations, cultural and religious leaders, as well as the Media.”

She also noted that the partnership approach would lead to accountability and enforcement of legislation and policies for the speedy prosecution of perpetrators.

“It is a criminal offence that must be punished. Working with the relevant stakeholders in the criminal justice system, the capacity of duty-bearers must be enhanced for implementation of relevant policies and legislation with clear targets,” Kobia noted.

The CS spoke during the release of a report titled trapped within a lockdown: understanding sexual and gender-based violence during the Covid-19 period.

The findings of the report unveiled on Saturday confirms that the strain due to a reduction or loss of incomes by male heads of households and lack of healthy outlets to deal with the psychological strain of not meeting the social norm expectations on being a provider has led to more cases of intimate partner violence.

Alarmed by an increase in gender-based violence, President Uhuru Kenyatta on June 6 called for urgent action to tame the vice.

He noted that when the family is under attack, the state is equally under attack.

“I am concerned with the increasing tensions within our homes. Cases of Gender-Based Violence have increased, mental health issues have worsened, and instances of teenage pregnancy have escalated,” said Uhuru.

“We must always remember that the family is a projection of the State. If the family is under attack, the State is under attack. If the family is weak, the country is weak,” he warned.

“Therefore, to fortify our protection of the family as the foundation of the State, I further direct and order that the National Crime Research Centre to probe the escalating cases of gender-based violence, the worrying trend of cases where the girl child has been disempowered, and the violation of children’s rights.”

Gender-Based Violence Recovery Centre (GBRC) at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital recorded up to 388 cases of defilement January and April alone, with the youngest being a 3-year-old girl.

Between April 15 and May 3, a total of 289 cases were reported to FIDA-Kenya with child custody and maintenance cases topping the list at 117 while gender-based violence cases following with 81 cases.

In March, the national helpline 1,195 registered an increase in gender-based violence (GBV) cases during the dusk-to-dawn curfew with 115 cases, up from 86 in February, an increase of 33.72 per cent in just three weeks.