Hospitals to get gender violence recovery centres for attack victims

About 243 million women and girls were abused last year by an intimate partner globally (Shutterstock)

June cannot forget events that drove her out of her matrimonial home to seek refuge at a safe house in Nairobi.

In May, her husband threatened to kill her and their baby. She then decided to leave.

“I knew I had to leave or else my story would be told after my death,” says June who moved in with her sister after spending three months at the safe house. Her story is not isolated as gender violence (GBV) continues unabated across the country.

Globally, about 243 million women and girls were abused last year by an intimate partner while only two in five such cases reported or sought help. Locally, the Covid-19 pandemic has compounded the problem.

“Schools closure and economic strain left women and girls poorer, out of school and out of jobs, and more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, forced marriage and harassment,” says European Union ambassador to Kenya Simon Mordue. 

Even as 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence was launched, there is concurrence that the Covid pandemic has exacerbated GBV. This year’s theme is “Orange the World.”

The day also marked the launch of guidelines to set up recovery centres in public health facilities for victims of GBV. Dubbed Guidelines for the Establishment of Gender Based Violence Recovery Centers in health facilities in Kenya, the document outlines infrastructural requirements, medical management and the role of key actors in such centres.

“In fulfillment of the functions, and in actualising Vision 2030 and the government’s Big Four Agenda, the ministry has developed these guidelines for the establishment of gender violence recovery centres in all health facilities. Successful implementation of the guidelines will enhance access to justice for survivors of GBV,” said Public Service, Youth and Gender Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia.

Gender CS Prof Margaret Kobia (Wilberforce Okwiri)

Increases the vulnerability

The CS, in a speech read on her behalf by Prof Collete Suda, Principal Secretary in the ministry, said more cases of violence had been recorded this year mainly due to the pandemic which led to a 55 per cent increase in violence cases in urban areas.

“The restrictions in movement and social distancing leads to isolation and increases the vulnerability to GBV and this is not unique to Kenya. The problem has become compounded and more complex,” Prof Kobia pointed out.

Recovery centres will operate round the clock and are expected to provide integrated and comprehensive services to survivors of GBV. They will offer medical and psycho-social services.

The document states: The functional one-stop centre shall implement the multi-agency approach by housing (where possible) service providers from different sectors (psycho-social, security, legal and livelihoods responses) in the same location, to enhance effective referrals and ensure consistency in application of core-guiding principles in all service delivery points.

For clinical management, there will be need for informed consent, history-taking, medical examination, documentation of injuries, medical investigation and medical treatment as well as management of the alleged perpetrator.

County governments will bear the responsibility of setting up the centres. The Kenya Police Service will also have a training manual for officers attached to the centres to attend to GBV cases.

Anna Mudavati, the Country Director UN Women, urged the government to include survivors of violence in decision-making. She noted that civil society organisations had played a critical role in prevention and response to GBV.