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< Protect women and girls from increased sexual and domestic violence researchers at the University of Birmingham. >
August 3, 2020 • jainendra joshi • business

 

 

Urgent action is needed to protect women and girls in Kenya from increased sexual and domestic

violence in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, say researchers at the University of Birmingham.

The team investigated ways in which the pandemic has heightened the risk of violence across the

whole population in Kenya. Factors include a lack of access to alternative safe venues following

school closures, increased tensions within households, and social isolation.

A report on the findings is being presented to Kenya’s GBV Gender Sector Working Group, which is

convened by the State Department of Gender under the Ministry of Public Service, Youth, and

Gender. The working group consists of more than 80 members representing various

organizations (local, International, and UN Agencies).

The research was prompted by concerns raised by survivors of sexual violence, Human rights

defenders and organizations rights organizations that the COVID-19 crisis has both increased

women’s and girl’s vulnerability to violence and also prevented their access to life-saving services.

Between March and June 2020, the researchers interviewed 80 survivors of violence within the

country, including 29 children under the age of 18. They found that emergency measures

such as school closures may have made children particularly vulnerable to offenses committed

by ‘non-strangers’, such as neighbors, during the daytime.

The researchers also found that increasingly younger children were being targeted, with survivors having

an average age of 12 years old, compared to a national average of 16 before the pandemic according to

the most recent Kenyan Demographic Health Survey.

While the threat of violence has increased, many women and girls are less able to get help because of

the stigmatization, threats, and further violence they face when trying to report incidents to the police

and access medical care. The team found that women are more likely to remain in dangerous situations

because they fear reprisals and are also destitute.

Lead researcher, Dr. Heather Flowe, from the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham,

said: “We are urging policymakers to take action now to prevent further harm to women and girls in

Kenya who find themselves in incredibly dangerous and vulnerable situations. These measures are

necessary and urgent.

“There is a dire need for ongoing real-time documentation of incidents by the government. This would

help identify geographic clusters of cases and serial perpetrators. This would enable Kenya to raised

prevent and protect people from sexual and other sorts of violence, and ensure there's appropriate

support for survivors.”

The research team is calling on the Kenyan government to take action to better protect women and girls

from attacks. Their recommendations include:

Ensuring the national COVID-19 recovery strategy includes comprehensive protection and prevention

plans for sexual and gender-based violence
Give high priority to the protection of youngsters, particularly ensuring access to alternative safe venues

when schools are shut
Implement routine data collection processes within the healthcare, police, and judicial systems to record sexual and other sorts of violence to detect offense patterns and monitor access to services.