Response to gender based violence disjointed

Statistics on GBV remain startling and overwhelming even as violence against women remains the most pervasive violation of human rights.
Even while countries have concentrated more on response than prevention of violence against women, the vice leaves women demoralised, lowering their self-esteem, hurting their economic and social activities and leaving them traumatised.
ender based violence robs mothers and daughters of opportunities that could take their standards of living to the next level while at the same time undermining their safety and human rights, posing as a huge obstacle to development.
Even during conflict, violence occurs as a by-product of social order or as a tool to terrorise individuals and families as well as precipitate their expulsion from the communities they live in.
During the 2007-2008 post-election violence for instance, there was widespread discrimination, threats of violence, verbal abuse, defamation propaganda, bribery, claims of rigging, widespread rape, sexual mutilation, ethnicised sexual targeting, violence in internally displaced people’s camps, family intimidation and widespread impunity.
However, in Kenya response to gender based violence is wanting. According to a book by Claire Mc Evoy, Battering, Rape and Lethal Violence: A Baseline of Information on Physical Threats against Women in Nairobi , the country has a disjointed system in response to violence that lacks a genuinely holistic, and multi-sectoral approach, namely one that involves the medical sector, police, prisons, justice actors and traditional authorities.
It states: “Current procedures for survivors of violence are disconnected, cumbersome, time consuming, at times confusing, are not affordable for low income women. The cost of pursuing a case in the formal justice system without multiple levels of financial and other assistance from a non-governmental organisation or pro-bono lawyer is prohibitive. The absence of funds may even prevent a woman from accessing a hospital where forensic evidence can be gathered. Most survivors arrive in hospitals in packed matatus in the absence of an accessible, government run ambulance system.
“Pursuing a case means numerous trips to a medical facility, police, police doctor and the courts; frequently being unable to work, having to organise babysitters for the children, and finding transportation money each time including for taxis for the police to transport forensic evidence to the government chemist for examination.”
According to the survey, in practice, Nairobi’s current gender based violence management system — which is undoubtedly the best in Kenya — is tacked against the survivor of violence from the start due to a lack of integrated teamwork. The criminal justice agencies cannot perform if the police are not on board; the police cannot perform if forensic evidence is not collected by health professionals; health professionals cannot perform if society encourages women not to seek medical help. <
During the National Gender Based Violence Summit held in Nairobi in September under the Peace Initiative Kenya (PIK) project, it was noted that there was weak coordination efforts among actors and GBV responders. There is also lack of accountability and inaction amongst the duty bearers when it comes to prevention and response from security agencies, health service providers, the education sector, legal justice systems and the community at large.
According to Betty Murungi, a peace and GBV advisor “the State should respond to GBV because it is a human rights issue and not a private matter.”
She notes that although policing as a sector is under-resourced, personnel manning gender desks that are supposed to respond to GBV are never there, and when they are, they are never trained.”
“The country does not even have a forensic laboratory to ensure samples stay in a laboratory that does not allow it to be compromised,” noted Murungi.
These sentiments are echoed by Superindent Marysella Andanje who notes that police officers lose cases because GBV cases cannot be exhaustively prosecuted within 48 hours. So many cases are lost within the course of investigation because police lack facilitation to enable them exhaustively investigate.”
According to Andanje, the legal framework is not comprehensive enough to tackle emerging issues of GBV and coordination among key players in the sector is lacking.
“If we are to deal with GBV cases seriously, we must lobby the government to have GBV and sexual offences cases taken seriously. There is need to allocate vehicles and resources to specifically deal with GBV and child abuse cases.”
This is reinforced further by medical officers who shy away from giving evidence in court.
According to Dr Pamela Godia, Programme Officer Division of Reproductive Health: “Health personnel shy away from giving evidence in court while police are not comfortable asking questions during the course of investigations.”
Tabitha Oula from the Office of the Deputy Public Prosecutor says response to gender based violence can only be of help to survivors of violence if the linkages are strong with a holistic system to enable the survivor obtain formal justice.
Oula suggests a strategic approach in sensitising the public not only about gender based violence but also sexual gender based violence. She says there is need to review and re-evaluate the legal framework to build in on issues arising and establishment and operationalization of sexual offences, gender violence and victims’ rights section.
This is echoed by Murungi who notes: GBV will not be eradicated if there is no commitment and political will from government.
All GBV legislation, policies and programmes are reactive and thus only come into effect after a fact of violence. There is limited prevention policies and programmes to stop perpetration of violence before it happens. This may include education, information and awareness raising at personal and social levels. There must be a change of mind-sets at family and community level to ensure that ending GBV is everyone’s responsibility.
There should be a shift in norms and behaviours through education and change in attitudes. Addressing GBV must be at the centre of socio-economic development with strong legal frameworks for GBV.

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One Response to Response to gender based violence disjointed

  1. Pingback: Campaign2015Plus International | Technical Workshop on Gender-Based Violence

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