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Police are weak link in war against gender violence, say women MPs

Deputy Speaker Gladys Boss during the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) at the Parliament buildings, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Women lawmakers have accused the police of doing little to fight gender-based violence and protect victims of domestic violence. 

Speaking during a breakfast meeting in Parliament Buildings yesterday, Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (Kewopa) said some of them have been victims of GBV but police did not offer meaningful help.

National Assembly Deputy Speaker Gladys Shollei revealed that she has been a victim of GBV and reported the matter to the police, who were not of any help. 

She raised concern that if a person of her stature can undergo GBV and police fail to act on her case, what about an ordinary woman in the village.

"The police have been an impediment in the fight against gender-based violence. You can imagine if someone of my stature reports a case of gender-based violence and the police fail to act, what about that ordinary woman in my constituency?" she posed.

Aldai MP Maryanne Kitany echoed Ms Shollei's sentiments and accused the police of failing to act on cases of GBV reported in various parts of the country citing her case when she was facing eviction from her home in 2018.

Ms Kitany said interestingly, the person who was evicting her was escorted by the police and she was forced to seek the court's intervention to protect herself. 

"Most people do not know me because of my previous or current positions but through the soap opera that I found myself in. The police need to protect women undergoing GBV and not aiding its occurrence," she said.

Senate Speaker Kathuri Murungi told Kewopa he will lobby male lawmakers to come up with legislation to protect women against GBV. 

Mr Murungi said research has shown that countries led by women do well and they should be given a chance to serve in various positions.

The Senate Deputy Speaker asked men to be at the forefront of the fight against GBV since they need to protect women and girls in society. 

"It is important that we look at all legislation on gender equality and ensure they protect women and men against gender-based violence," said Murungi.

Kewopa Vice Chairperson Rozah Buyu (Kisumu Town West MP) said they will work with all partners to tackle GBV.

"Cases of gender-based violence have been reported both in the high class and lower classes of society and cannot be linked to a particular group," said Ms Buyu. 

Samburu West MP Naisula Lesuuda noted that there are 103 female members of Parliament drawn from the National Assembly and the Senate.

" We have 29 members elected in constituencies, 47 Women County Members of Parliament, 6 Nominated Members of National Assembly from political parties, 3 elected senators, 18 Nominated Senators including one representative for the youth and one representative of persons living with disabilities," said Lesuuda.

Lesuuda said female legislators championed for elimination of Female Genital Mutilation and early marriage. "The greatest threat to women and girls normally comes from those close to them which is sad," she said.

The legislators regretted that sexually transmitted diseases and early pregnancies have been reported in girls and women who have experienced GBV.

They noted that four married women in Nairobi experienced GBV at the height of Covid-19 besides cases of teenage pregnancies reported. 

The legislators called for the establishment of safety shelters in the 47 counties for victims of GBV.

Naivasha MP Jane Kihara said she has two safe houses in her constituency which she put during her first term in Parliament due to high number of rape cases.

Lamu East MP Ruweida Obo said she has established a safe house in her constituency.