• Besides physical violence on women, recent reports have showed girls suffer other forms of rights violations, including teenage pregnancies and early marriages.
• Various reports have also made reference to high numbers of children being forced into sex tourism.
Women’s rights in Kenya remain under threat.
Despite the few successes realised in empowering them, numerous issues still exist in the country, ranging from cultural, political, social to economic disenfranchisement, all which negatively affect their well being as well as girls.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it worse, with deeply entrenched women and girls’ rights violations in the trenches and dungeons of the very homes meant to be safe havens.
According to a recent United Nations report, five in every 10 women in the age bracket of 15 and 49 in Kenya have suffered one form or another of violence.
Besides physical violence on women, recent reports have showed girls suffer other forms of rights violations, including teenage pregnancies and early marriages.
Various reports have also made reference to high numbers of children being forced into sex tourism. In a report titled “The Dark Side of the Internet for Children”, over 10,000 children from various parts of the country are trafficked to Mtwapa alone for sex tourism in the coastal town.
The same report further showed 25 per cent percent of commercial sexual exploitation of children victims in the Kenyan Coastal region had migrated from upcountry to engage in commercial sex work.
Culture and tradition, particularly in rural Kenya, have played a major role in contributing to gender rights violations.
For example, the belief that a girl should not be educated since doing so will only benefit her in laws has led to many girls ending up out of school. The few who start schooling drop out at early ages, mostly to allow parents to concentrate their efforts on educating the male sibling.
Economic disenfranchisement, including lack of ownership of and access to land by women, further depreciates women’s roles in development process of the nation. Such factors hit women hard and renders them vulnerable to all sorts of abuses.
Domestic violence has been on the rise particularly during this Covid-19 pandemic.
The Kenyan law defines domestic violence as “violence against a person, or a threat of violence or imminent danger by someone who that person is in or has been in a domestic relationship with”.
Domestic relationships are marriages, relationships between divorced couples, people who live together, and those who were in marriages that have been dissolved or declared null and void.
This relationship includes someone you have a child with and any person you have a close personal relationship with. Domestic violence acts include and are not limited to sexual and physical abuse, defilement, child marriage and incest.
Unfortunately, the violence is not only on adults but children too. According to HAKI Africa, which recently went round the rural counties to find out the cause of women battering in homes, the organisation confirmed that most of the women are expected to fend for the families, including their husbands.
When they fail to put food on the table, they are beaten by their husbands and in a few cases, also by other members of the family, including sons.
For the younger girls, they are forced to work as house girls to raise resources to cater for their families’ basic needs. In the process, they end up being physically and sexually abused by their employers.
It is obvious that women and girls in Kenya are undergoing tremendous challenges.
While generally all the people are faced with trials and tribulations emanating from the pandemic, women and girls’ situation is further compounded by abuse of their rights.
As a country, we must wake up and address the issues hindering emancipation of our woman and girl. To begin with, we must do away with cultural and traditional beliefs that impede their empowerment in the country.
Poor parenting and societal behaviours that render the girl child susceptible to manipulation must also be done away with. The national and county governments should also work to improve women’s rights with the support of faith leaders and civil society.
More importantly, women and girls must refuse to be the weaker sex. They must rise up and defend their rights, by any means necessary.