Say no to gender-based violence
What comes to mind when Agnes Tirop, Annah Kangogo, Mildred Odira, Cynthia Makokha are mentioned?
These are women whose deaths shone a light on gender-based violence in Kenya.
Their lives were cut short by men who they loved and trusted with their lives.
These women had a bright future. We will never get a chance to see them shine in their glory.
COVID-19 brought out true colors
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a sharp increase in sexual and gender-based violence worldwide. The stay home restrictive measure worsened the situation for many women, children, men, and young people living with and in abusive families or relationships. Home became unsafe for many.
All these took form in either: intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation, trafficking for sexual exploitation, female infanticide, and ‘honor’ crimes are common – with intimate partner violence.
Sexual and gender-based violence can be perpetrated in different ways including physical, verbal, psychological, sexual, socio-economic, or intimate relationships.
In Kenya, social media and mainstream media have been flooded by cases of sexual violence and abuse with the most recent being the killing of Kenyan athlete Tirop allegedly by her husband.
We can do this! So lets …
Any form of violence is a violation of human rights. Recently the President Ururu during the Generation Equality Forum 2021 in Paris made several commitments on behalf of the Kenyan government including GBV prevention and response in crisis situations such as COVID-19 pandemic response, humanitarian contexts, and electoral related GBV. Will these be honored? Hard to tell.
It is important to note that over 40% of Kenyan women and girls are likely to continue facing SGBV including a lifetime physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime, and over one in five girls facing risks of child marriage or Female Genital Mutilation meaning we still have a long way to go.
This calls for a holistic and upfront condemnation of sexual violence regardless of who is involved. The awareness and power need to start at the basic community level because some cases are accelerated by traditional norms.
Civil society organizations should join hands with the government to intensify campaigns aimed to end SGBV by intentionally implementing bold commitments that would remove the systemic barriers that allow GBV to thrive in our communities.
We need to create safe spaces for survivors to seek support and speak out. The stereotyping, survivor blaming and shaming must end and it starts with you and me.
Call it out when you see it! It starts with you and me!