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COFAS is currently the only organization offering a safe house in Kisumu with Oloo indicating that they have over ten girls and one woman who have suffered sexual and gender-based violence/CFM/Ojwang Joe

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Lobby group roots for State-funded safe houses amid surging sexual violence

KISUMU, Kenya, Jul 19 – Non-state actors in Western Kenya are rooting for establishment of safe houses to accommodate the rising number of victims of sexual offences and gender-based violence.

Martin Oloo, Program Director at Community Forum for Advanced Sustainable Development (COFAS), a non-profit apolitical non-governmental organization working to eradicate gender-based violence and food insecurity in Nyanza region, notes the number new cases is overwhelming hence the need for the operationalization of safe houses.

COFAS is currently the only organization offering a safe house in Kisumu with Oloo indicating that they have over ten girls and one woman who have suffered sexual and gender-based violence.

He says many survivors have been turned away in the existing safe houses in Kisumu run by other organizations since they were closed as part of the measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.    

“As a small organization, we only offer transitional services and the number is big, it becomes difficult, so we are forced to reintegrate survivors to their families or communities where they are still facing danger,” he says.

The major challenge, Oloo notes, is incest cases where victims face their perpetrators who happen to be their fathers, brothers or cousins back at home.

Oloo called upon county governments to operationalize the existing safe houses to be able to accommodate the victims and offer them adequate period to heal.

He says non state actors will only supplement the county and national governments but will not shoulder their duties.

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Oloo says most sexual violence cases happen in Western Kenya but the survivors do not access justice since there are no safe houses run and operated by county governments.

“We are overwhelmed and the county governments need to even operationalize one safe house on an interim basis to support these children, so that we can have those children for a day or two and transfer them to the safe houses run by the county governments,” he says.

Every week, COFAS receives between three to five cases of sexual violence, with the most recent being an underage girl who is six months pregnant.

Oloo explains that the girl, who is physically challenged, was impregnated by his father.

“The father is in police custody, the mother and the father separated a long time ago, that means we have to stay with the girl here since there is nowhere to release her to,” he explains.

Oloo is concerned with secret negotiations between the perpetrators and families of the victims that occur as a result of lack of safe places to cover up the offences confine the survivors.

At COFAS safe house, there are three incest cases, seven defilement cases and one gender-based violence. There are also several active cases in court.

Patricia Orao, program officer Kisumu Medical Education Trust (KMET) who capacity builds other organizations says there still exists several challenges for the victims of sexual abuses.

Orao says police officers manning gender-based violence desks have failed to give assistance to the victims whenever they report cases.

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“There is a case I was following up and to get a P3 form is hell, it took another person to exert pressure for us to get the file processed,” she says.

She says the struggle the victims undergo to get police clearance and even medical assistance at the hospitals is strenuous.

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