AMWIK calls upon DCI, Judiciary and DPP to clean the system to ensure justice for GBV victims

AMWIK member who is also executive director and founder the women's newsroom foundation Njeri Rugene, executive director of Covan-coalitions violence against women, Wairimu Munyinyi Wahome, Judie Kaberia executive director of AMWIK and Faith Oneya member of AMWIK. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Association of Media Women in Kenya (Amwik) in partnership with Urgent Action Fund-Africa, have called for urgent justice for victims of gender-based violence(GBV).

To achieve this, they petitioned the government, Director of Public Prosecution(DPP), Director of Criminal Investigation(DCI) and judiciary to clean up the system.

Speaking in Nairobi while addressing journalists yesterday, Amwik said despite Kenya having made huge progress in the legal framework that criminalises GBV, justice is out of reach to most victims even as cases continues to rise.

''Kenya has stringent legislative and policy framework that criminalises GBV and imposes heavy penalties on perpetrators. The country also has solid investigations, prosecutions and judicial systems to handle even the most difficult crimes,’’ said Judie Kaberia- executive director Amwik.

‘‘What should worry us all is that despite all these laws and systems, cases of GBV rose at an alarming rate during the pandemic period. Sadly, the wheels of justice have been turning too slow, delaying justice for victims and survivors,’’ added Ms Kaberia.

This, she said has encouraged the perpetrators to continue committing the violence, knowing it’s not a big deal.

‘‘We have to interrogate the system right from when a victim goes to the police station to report a crime to when the court determines justice,’’ she said.

The women said despite the introduction of Policare, gender desks and emergency reporting systems like hotlines, the upsurge in cases is an indication that either these changes are insufficient or incommensurate to the weight of GBV crimes.

The association also appealed to the government to fast-track the 12 commitments made before the Generation Equality Forum to eradicate the GBV by 2026.

They called upon President Uhuru Kenyatta to actualise his pledge of Sh2.3 billion by end of 2022 and another Sh5 billion by 2026.

‘‘We also ask Chief Justice Martha Koome and the government to hasten the establishment of the specialised unit to handle GBV cases in the country by allocating resources to clear the backlog of GBV cases and hasten justice delivery,’’ said Ms Kaberia.

CJ Koome in 2021 announced that the judiciary was considering establishing such a specialised unit but cited resource hindrance as a hindrance.

Citing some of the reasons why victims are taking long to get justice, they said failure to have professionals and gender-sensitive police officers, at reporting desks is also to blame.

‘‘We have heard cases where police officers at the desk ask for money. The police officer doesn’t understand the story of victims, yet they should start with counselling. We demand that those desks be manned by people who are trained on how to handle GBV victims. We don’t want questions to victims like why were you dressed like this or that, why did you go home late among other bad questions,’’ said Ms Kaberia.

She said such experiences have discouraged some victims from going to report the cases thus no justice to them.

Wairimu Munyinyi-Wahome, executive director of Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) called for the training of all police officers if possible on handling cases of GBV cases.

''This because that one or two police officers will not be on duty every day and sometimes they can be transferred to another desk or area,'' she said.

Njeri Rugene, a member of Amwik and founder of The Woman's Newsroom Foundation, said it’s unfortunate that the lack of professionals at the desk has seen some police officers being compromised by perpetrators.

Ms Munyiyi said there is a need to have real conversations on prevention and mitigation in the families, workplaces and police spaces on GBV.

And as elections approach come August, Ms Rugene challenged political parties by going a step further to identify themselves with candidates who do not condone gender-based violence to women.

She also asked media houses to hold onto account all political candidates who spew violence on women.

‘‘It’s now time candidates and other people seeking leadership positions and who come from communities that practise Female Genital Mutilation(FGM)to talk about it openly during campaigns without thinking about losing votes,’’ said Njeri.

According to Faith Oneya, an Amwik member, the media should avoid using biased languages and justifying GBV causes in their headlines.

Research, she said has shown that sometimes media houses try to explain the headline by giving reasons why a GBV incident happened.

''The same research has also revealed that many people read headlines mostly and maybe first or two sentences of the story. For instance, when a headline reads that a man beat a wife because she was late. This normalises cases of GBV and makes it look like a normal part of a relationship or marriage'' she said.

She also urged media houses to stop humanising the perpetrators.