- This case is not unique as it reflects the harsh reality faced by many women in Kisii County who endure years of intimate partner violence (IPV), trapped in a cycle of abuse without a safe haven to escape to.
- Women and girls are vulnerable as they are preyed on by their would-be duty bearers charged with the ‘responsibility’ of protecting their interests.
Recently, the media reported a case where a police officer physically abused his wife in Kisii County.
It took the effort of Kisii Women Rep Dorice Aburi to pile pressure on the arrest of the suspect who was still free despite the heinous act he had committed
This case is not unique as it reflects the harsh reality faced by many women in Kisii County who endure years of intimate partner violence (IPV), trapped in a cycle of abuse without a safe haven to escape to.
Women and girls are vulnerable as they are preyed on by their would-be duty bearers charged with the ‘responsibility’ of protecting their interests.
According to the Crime Research Centre's 2020 report, Kisii County recorded alarming figures: 25.0 for rape, 18.3 for gender-based violence (GBV), 25.0 for defilement, 0.8 for female genital mutilation (FGM), 1.7 for malicious damage to property, and 1.7 for creating disturbance.
The 2022 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey indicates that 40% of women have experienced IPV or physical violence in their lifetime.
These numbers, although they may seem like mere statistics, represent the silent suffering of countless women behind closed doors.
To address this crisis effectively, we must start by recognizing the constitutional clauses that safeguard women's rights.
Global and legal instruments such as CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol, of which Kenya is among the 42 African countries that have ratified it, underscore the importance of protecting women from harm and violence.
The Kenyan Constitution, in Articles 25(o), 29(d), and 29(f), explicitly prohibits any form of torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, whether by public or private entities.
Furthermore, Article 27(1) enshrines the right to access healthcare services, sufficient food, water, and social security for all citizens.
Establishing a rescue center for GBV survivors is not just a moral imperative; it's a legal obligation aimed at providing social security to these survivors.
One of the most heart-wrenching consequences of this pervasive issue is that many GBV victims, especially women, withdraw their cases from court due to threats from community members and the stigma associated with reporting their perpetrators.
Without a safe place to take refuge and a comprehensive, multi-sectoral approach to follow-up, survivors often find themselves trapped in a cycle of abuse.
Perpetrators of GBV are often community members, creating a paralyzing fear that the violence may recur.
A functional rescue center in Kisii County could be the lifeline these women desperately need.
It would offer them a safe space to heal, access counseling services, and learn life skills that empower them to rebuild their lives.
However, the reality is that Kisii County's GBV rescue center, launched two years ago, remains non-functional due to a lack of basic equipment, such as beds.
It is essential to map and prioritize these assets alongside other resources to support survivors of sexual and gender-based violence effectively.
Moreover, the adoption of a gender policy in Kisii County is crucial to guide the delivery of services at the rescue center and ensure that justice is served.
Counties with functional rescue centers have already demonstrated their impact.
Nairobi boasts the Nairobi Women's Hospital Gender Violence Recovery Centre, Meru houses the Tumaini Girls Rescue Centre, and Mombasa has SOLWODI (Solidarity with Women in Distress).
Notably, Nakuru County is in the process of establishing GBV rescue centers in all its 11 constituencies to provide care and counseling services to victims.
These success stories serve as shining examples of what can be achieved when communities and stakeholders unite to combat GBV.
The responsibility for addressing GBV and IPV extends beyond county boundaries.
The national government, county government through the Ministry of Health, and other departments, in collaboration with IPV rights advocates, have made commendable efforts.
Funds have been allocated to establish and manage rescue centers, and integrated models within hospitals provide essential services, including emergency clinical care, mental health support, paralegal services, referrals to the police, and access to wider community care.
We commend the national government for their commendable efforts in the important campaign against Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
Additionally, we applaud the Kisii County government's Department of Gender for their collaboration with Civil Society Organizations in adopting a gender policy.
This policy, scheduled for launch on Human Rights Day in 2023, will play a crucial role in informing and regulating the activities of the Rescue Center.
As we strive to create safer communities for women and girls, let us remember the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: "The time is always right to do what is right".
It is time for us to come together, address GBV head-on, and ensure that every survivor in Kisii County has a chance to reclaim their life, dignity, and dreams.
Neema Nyaundi is a gender champion, CECOME.