NAIROBI, Kenya June 27 – Sexual Gender-Based Violence is a major challenge in the Kenyan slums, contributing to the high rate of underage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
It has also been blamed for the rise in HIV infections, including on underage girls making it a major hindrance to their academic development.
In Nairobi’s Kibera slum, the largest informal settlement in the continent, such cases of sexual gender-based violence are rampant, with many going unreported.
“We have a lot of these cases in Kibera but the problem is most of the women and girls are not coming out to report them,” a senior police officer at the Kilimani Police station said, “we have a gender desk and we encourage victims or anyone with information to bring it to our attention but they still do not come.”
She said, “it is like they have normalised these incidents yet they are a very serious violation that needs to be investigated and prosecuted.”
A baseline survey commissioned by UNDP on the forms of sexual and gender-based violence shows that in 72.5 percent of the cases, perpetrators are persons known to the victims many of them family, neighbours, husbands, partners among other close people making it the reason most cases go unreported.
Sammy Muraya, a Programs Director at the Voice for Women and Girls’ Rights says lack of proper institutional framework is also a hindrance to addressing the challenge in the country.
He cited the lack of adequate training on police officers to handle such cases.
“The reporting system on GBV cases is wanting in Kenya and something needs to be done,” Muraya says, “we have cases where victims are turned away from police stations or ridiculed.”
He said the lack of adequate training of law enforcement officers, means that victims will always find themselves reporting the incidents to police officers with little or no knowledge on the GBV cases which is a serious violation of human rights and a life-threatening health and protection issue.
According to Kibera Community Communications Network, at least 5 cases of rape and other forms of GBV are recorded in Kibera slum every day.
“The sad thing is that some are abused with close family members, people they have trusted,” the organisation says, “most cases go unreported as they fear stigma and shame in the society they live in.”
Women and children are the most vulnerable often abused sexually and even sexually.
Statistics released last month by the Ministry of Gender show that GBV cases have increased drastically since last year, fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic that occasioned lockdowns and limited movement.
This meant that families are more confined together, with children at home unlike when they spend most of their time in school.
Professor Margaret Kobia, the Cabinet Secretary for Gender said there was a 36 percent spike in GBV cases in 2020 when 5,009 cases were recorded.
Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia said the cases were recorded between January and December and represented an increase of 1,411 compared to cases reported in 2019. Nairobi, Kakamega, Kisumu, Nakuru and Kiambu counties accounted for most of the cases.
“The findings of the study established that the number of Gender-Based Violence cases reported between January and June 2020 had an increase of 92 percent compared to previous year same period,” Kobia said.
The most common forms of Gender-Based Violence identified were physical assault, rape and attempted rape, murder, defilement, grievous harm, child neglect and psychological torture.
Gender experts have also blamed the rise in cases to food insecurity which perpetrators use to lure young girls and desperate women making them suffer physical, psychological, sexual and economic forms of domestic violence.
This has escalated teenage pregnancies leading to school dropouts.
A Demographic Health Survey in 2019 indicated that 400,000 teenagers get pregnant every year.
But in 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 150,000 girls were impregnated in Kenya in just three months.