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Slow implementation of policies a setback in fight against SGBV

Panelists during the commemoration  16 days of activism and conversation on '' Accelerating efforts t end gender based violence in all its forms'' at the Panari Hotel on 1st December 2022 [David Gichuru,Standard]

Slow implementation of policies and lack of government shelters for survivors have been identified as factors hindering the fight against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV).

This is despite efforts being made by the country and various development organizations to eliminate all forms of GBV.

In an SGBV panel discussion run by KTN News on the acceleration of efforts to end GBV in all its forms, it was found that the county had made commitments which include formulation of a generation equality forum, but had a gap in implementing it.

The talk brought together stakeholders from the government, civil society, women and youth-led movements, UN and development partners and the media as they discussed ways in which they could accelerate efforts to end all forms of GBV and harmful practices carried out against women and girls.

“In Kenya, there are really good legislative tools. The country has been a trailblazer and the law is very good. The weakness is in the implementation of these things,” said Andres Thomsen who is United Nations Population Fund (UNFP), Kenya representative.

According to Wangechi Wachira who is the Executive Director of the Center for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW), the country must move beyond commitments and put everything into action.

The stakeholders further identified a slow justice process, overburdening of survivors by having them struggle to access distant social amenities such as police stations and hospitals, poor preservation of evidence and cultural barriers as additional factors which hindered the elimination of GBV.

Ms Wangechi said survivors were being overburdened when they had to struggle with accessing hospitals and police stations, which were a distance apart, yet they were on a healing journey.

“A lot of effort is needed to ensure the survivor can get these services under one roof,” Wangechi said. 

One of the commitments under generation equality is that the country has committed to bringing in Policare which is a one-stop model with a police station, hospital, psycho-social support, forensics and ODPP.

Jacqueline Njagi who is the Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions head at the Sexual and Gender-based Violence Division, Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, noted that access to justice remained a challenge for SGBV survivors.

The survivors have most often been forced to share the same environment with perpetrators for lack of government shelters.

“As ODPP, the DPP has been very deliberate in hastening justice for GBV survivors, has made it easy by setting aside a division that deals with SGBV issues,” Ms Njagi said, adding that the DPP has worked towards making child-friendly rooms where they can freely open up and testify in their cases.

Thomsen, who termed the legal system as overburdened with court processes that dragged for long, said this was due to poor preservation of evidence.

“We talk of the legal system, and there is a way how evidence for the SGBV survivors have to be preserved and if not done correctly, it will be inadmissible in court. This is where things get stuck and takes a very long time,” Mr Thomsen said. 
Josephat Ireri who is the Program Director of Kenya Finland Bilateral Program on Prevention and response to Gender-Based Violence, State Department for Gender and Affirmative Action highlighted a worrying trend where the community itself normalised GBV.

“It comes out clearly that the problem starts with the community even before it comes to the other institutions,” Mr. Ireri said.

According to Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) 2014, 39 per cent of married women aged 15-49 have experienced physical or sexual violence from their spouse.

The KDHS data revealed that 36 per cent of men and 42 per cent of women aged 15-49 believe wife beating could be justified.

According to Njagi, the conviction rate of perpetrators in the country is at 76.4 per cent, cases which have been finalized within a period of two years (2021 and 2022).

This has been done despite having limited resources.

The stakeholders said there was the need to have an open and public conversation and stand up for what is right, be strong in fighting GBV and be on the lookout of a new trend coming out, the country investing in prevention and support by various bodies to ensure there is access to justice efforts to eliminate GBV.

In October, UNFPA and Standard Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to promote sexual and reproductive health, youth and population matters, with an aim of advancing the health and well-being of women, girls and young people.

Mr Thomsen highlighted the importance of safeguarding the sexual and reproductive health and well-being of young people.

He noted that focus ought to be made on ensuring quality information is used to reach the 75 per cent of the country’s population who are below 35 years old to help them make informed and right choices.

“Through this, we can address issues such as teenage pregnancies that have an adverse impact on the economy and social development of the country,” Thomsen said.

Standard Media Group CEO Orlando Lyomu said partnerships between the media and development partners are key in achieving sustainable development goals of the country.

“We want to facilitate conversations that drive policies and create social impact, especially during times of global adversity brought by COVID-19, conflicts in parts of the world and climate change,” Mr Lyomu said.