The world commemorated the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence from November 25 to December 10 - Human Rights Day.
This was an opportunity for Kenyans to reflect on the linkage between GBV and human rights violations.
This year’s theme in Kenya was ‘Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls’, reflecting the core principle of the transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Human rights instruments, including the 2010 Constitution under Article 28, recognise human rights as based on human dignity, which is recognised as an inherent right, respected and protected.
Unfortunately, Kenya has displayed multiple human rights violations, particularly sexual gender-based violence.
A 2014 report by the National Gender and Equality Commission on Gender-Based Violence notes that GBV is one of the most widespread and socially tolerated forms of human rights violations, cutting across nationality, race, class, ethnicity, and religion.
The report further indicates that GBV is a major source of inequality in Kenya today, and has a profound social and economic impact on families, communities, and the entire nation, as well as serious ramifications on national security.
An emerging crisis evidenced in the report is in the high statistics for incest and rape, including within matrimonial settings that leave women and girls vulnerable.
Nearly five out of 10 women aged 15-49 have at some point experienced physical violence since age 15.
It was noted that pregnancy related violence results in physical and emotional trauma, leading to possible miscarriage or unsafe termination of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.
The Constitution upholds human rights and dignity, and this inherently provides for protection of women from sexual violence, and a safe abortion where pregnancy results from such trauma.
The Magnitude Study on Incidences and Complication of Unsafe Abortion in Kenya 2013, conducted by the Ministry of Health, reported more than 465,000 unsafe abortions performed in 2012.
The study called for further investigations into the contribution of sexual violence to unintended pregnancies.
Despite the staggering figures, numerous instances have been reported where women have been denied termination of pregnancy services for pregnancies arising out of rape, incest and sexual violence.
There is also the rising issue of women and girls being forced by the police to keep the pregnancy in cases of incest or rape to preserve the infant to be used to retrieve DNA for evidence while prosecuting the perpetrator.
This is unacceptable.
These statistics are a wake-up call for the government to safeguard the inalienable right of human dignity of women against sexual gender-based violence by reforming and aligning our laws to conform with international laws, standards and practice, especially on decriminalisation of abortion and provision of abortion services to victims of sexual violence.
It should also allocate more resources towards education and creating awareness of sexual gender-based violence; provide adequate mechanisms for reporting and protecting victims; and streamline police procedures to ensure proper investigations are carried out in a way that dignifies the victim and successful prosecution of perpetrators.
Director, Ipas Africa Alliance