LOW-INCOME FAMILIES

Covid-19 measures blamed for surge in violence against children

Survey reveals that children are subjected to physical and verbal attacks by broke parents.

In Summary

• Psychologist says parents are currently spending more time with their children at home and those overwhelmed with the changing economic times could be letting it out on their children.

• Maureen*, a 14-year-old from Kawangware, has been beaten three times in the past week by her father, a drunkard.

Many cases of violence against women and children have been reported.
RIGHTS VIOLATION: Many cases of violence against women and children have been reported.
Image: COURTESY

Maureen (not her real name), a 14-year-old girl from Kawangware, has been beaten three times in the past week by her father, a drunk.

The father says she deserves the beatings for not doing things in time and eating more — something that was never a problem before.  

The physical assault is in addition to insults she receives from her mother who lost her job in April.

 

“Things have changed since Covid-19 hit the country. Apart from schools being closed, my parents are broke and they are letting it out on me. They often complain that since I came home, they are spending too much,” Maureen said.

On March 27, President Uhuru Kenyatta imposed a nationwide night curfew soon after the first case of the coronavirus was confirmed in the country. Worship places were also closed and Kenyans were urged to work from home. The curfew has since been reviewed from 7pm to 5am to 9pm to 4am. 

The situation Maureen has found herself in resonates with the findings of a survey conducted by TIFA among low-income earners in Nairobi that indicated a surge in violence against children since the curfew was imposed.

In the survey, 579 respondents (306 males and 273 females), mainly from Huruma, Kibera, Mathare, Korogocho, Mukuru kwa Njenga and Kawangware, were interviewed. 

On the initial 7pm-to-5am curfew, 23 per cent of the respondents indicated an increase in domestic violence against children, while only 19 per cent indicated an increase in violence during the 9pm-to-4am curfew.

Of the types of domestic violence against children, 49 per cent indicated a combination of both physical and verbal abuse, while only 23 per cent indicated violence of purely physical nature. The survey had a margin of error  +/- 4.1.

“The government’s adoption of several strict measures to counter the spread of Covid-19 has clearly resulted in higher levels of domestic violence against men and children, as well as women,” the report says.

 

John Kimani, a psychologist, says all these measures meant “parents are currently spending more time with their children at home” and those overwhelmed with the changing economic times could be letting it out on their children.

"Parents who are stressed out could be insulting, beating or shouting at their children during this period and these will have lasting psychological effects on the children,” Kimani said.

According to the TIFA report, it must be assumed that for children from low-income families, domestic violence is bound to increase.

“This is given not just to their extended presence at home but also due to the continuing night curfew that requires potentially ‘dangerous’ adults to be around them more often,” the research says.

This is in addition to the directive on school reopening. Schoolchildren will resume learning in January next year because of fears of Covid-19 spike. Meanwhile, the virus continues to take a heavy toll on the country.

Edited by F'Orieny