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How Covid-19 hampered rescue efforts for GBV victims

NATIONAL
By Christine Koech | November 30th 2021

Disruption of response services for victims of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic may have placed women who were already experiencing cruelty from their intimate partners at a higher risk, according to the latest report. 

This was after several GBV service delivery centres were shut down or converted to Covid-19 centres and service providers, the survey, Women’s Experiences on Intimate Partner Violence During the Ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic, by local NGO Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW), says.

The report says the pandemic unintentionally worsened the situation for women who were already experiencing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).

In addition, healthcare workers and police officers were reassigned from GBV response to other Covid related duties.

The report says fewer women attended GBV facilities during the period as only a few providers were left to offer GBV services. Further, the number of GBV survivors visiting the centres was generally limited to achieve social distancing as directed by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation to contain the spread of coronavirus.

All these factors discouraged women from taking up the services or hampered their effort to access the services, says the study that was carried out in Nairobi, Isiolo, Narok, Mombasa, and Kilifi counties.

Many others did not seek services because they were uncertain about availability or feared contracting the coronavirus from the GBV facilities.

“At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a slow response from the government to enlist GBV services as essential and strengthen response services for survivors,” says the report released in Nairobi on Tuesday.

Data for the study was collected through key informant interviews with 28 service providers, including government officials, staff of non-governmental organisations and lawyers handling GBV cases, police officers, health providers, community and social workers.

The research also included interviews with 26 women who experienced IPV during the pandemic.

The report also indicated that there was an increased risk of intimate partner violence in homes during the Covid-19 pandemic due to disruption of jobs and the family economy, and loss of income among women which compromised their economic independence and made them more vulnerable to abuse by their partners.

In addition, couples spending more time together increased alcohol use and loss of support structures which were major risk factors, the report says. 

“Our findings suggest increased alcohol consumption among men was associated with increased violence episodes in the home,” the report says.

It adds: “The self-isolation and social distancing measures took away the protective factors for women who were experiencing IPV, such as moments of relative freedom when the perpetrator or the woman went to work or access to support by additional family, friends or service providers in private spaces and exposed them to constant danger by the forced proximity with the perpetrator.”

Among others, the report wants the government to ensure prevention and response services for women who experienced violence are prioritised and included in the list of essential services.

"This will ensure whenever movement restrictions are put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19, exceptions are made for survivors of violence or those at risk of experiencing violence so they can seek safety and access to vital forms of support," the report reads. 

The report was launched virtually by Dr Jebii Kilimo, the Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Youth And Gender Affairs, who was the chief guest.

“I am glad we are beginning to be specific when talking about GBV by specifically mentioning intimate partner violence,’’ Kilimo said.   

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