Unmasking the Hurdles: The Battle Against Gender-Based Violence in Kenya
The Unheard Victim: A Mother’s Cry for Justice
In the bustling city of Nairobi, a mother’s desperate plea for justice reveals a deeply troubling reality. Erica, a local resident, reported the molestation of her 10-year-old son by a school security guard. Instead of assistance, she was met with demands for money by the police to facilitate their investigation. Unable to afford the fee, her case was left unattended, painting a stark picture of the formidable challenges faced by victims of sexual violence seeking assistance from government institutions.
A National Conference: Assessing the Implementation of Anti-GBV Measures
A conference organized to assess the progress of the 12 anti-gender-based violence (GBV) commitments made by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2021 brought to light many similar experiences. The conference was hosted by Equality Now and UN Women. It saw the participation of representatives from public, private, and civil society sectors, including researchers and experts in data and gender equality.
During the conference, participants unveiled the additional trauma victims often endure when reporting their experiences at police stations, seeking medical examinations, and pursuing justice through the courts. Issues such as lack of confidentiality at police stations, demands for payment to facilitate police work and clinical examinations, and the re-traumatization of children by the justice system were highlighted.
Voicing Frustrations: A Civil Society Perspective
Mary Makokha, founder of the Rural Education and Economic Enhancement Programme, expressed her frustration over the lack of quality at gender desks and the brutal treatment of abused children by the justice system. She also criticized the demands for payment by clinicians to fill out necessary forms and appear in court.
An Attempt at Reform: The National Police Service’s Stance
The National Police Service (NPS) spokesperson, Dr. Resila Onyango, acknowledged these issues and stated that they are striving to improve police stations to make them more accommodating for victims of GBV. She also mentioned that all officers commanding stations were undergoing training on GBV. The NPS has an Internal Affairs Unit for the public to file complaints against the police, but many, like Erica, are unaware of this service.
Efforts from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions
Jacqueline Njagi, head of the GBV division at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, noted the establishment of a child-friendly unit to collect evidence once, reducing the trauma of having to retell their experiences. However, despite these measures, many victims still face significant hurdles in seeking justice.
A Long Road Ahead: The Fight Against GBV Continues
The revelations from the conference and stories like Erica’s underscore the urgent need for stronger measures to combat GBV in Kenya. While steps are being taken at various levels, there remains a critical need for more effective implementation, greater awareness among the public about available services, and comprehensive reforms to ensure that no victim is left unheard or unsupported.
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