Pub­lic cam­paigns not enough

The Star (Kenya) - - Big Read -

The ‘My Dress My Choice’ cam­paign in 2014 brought to the fore the se­ri­ous is­sue of vi­o­lence against women in Kenya. The fact that the vi­o­lence hap­pened in such a brazen man­ner in a pub­lic space and with great im­punity was telling of how lit­tle hu­man rights en­shrined in our con­sti­tu­tion are un­der­stood, re­spected and ob­served. De­spite the fact that we have a raft of leg­is­la­tion deal­ing with sex­ual vi­o­lence and phys­i­cal ha­rass­ment against both men and women (Sex­ual Of­fences Act, Pe­nal Code), we con­tinue to see nu­mer­ous cases of sex­ual and phys­i­cal abuse in Kenya. Most re­cently, the re­ported in­ci­dents of young women be­ing al­legedly drugged and as­saulted in mata­tus has only con­firmed the fact that a lot more needs to be done to se­cure cham­pion and pro­mote the right to nondis­crim­i­na­tion, right to dig­nity and right to life for women and girls.

Cen­tre for Rights Ed­u­ca­tion and Aware­ness (CREAW) is a women hu­man rights NGO in Kenya, which was an in­te­gral part­ner of the ‘My Dress My Choice’ cam­paign, and which of­fers free le­gal aid and psy­choso­cial sup­port to women and girls who are sur­vivors of vi­o­lence. De­spite hav­ing pro­grammed around sex­ual and gen­der based vi­o­lence (SGBV) for over 15 years, we recog­nise that ad­dress­ing SGBV holis­ti­cally re­quires more to be done in ad­di­tion to hav­ing pow­er­ful pub­lic cam­paigns such as my dress my choice and Jus­tice for Liz. This is be­cause ad­dress­ing SGBV presents nu­mer­ous chal­lenges. First off, the preva­lence of SGBV in mul­ti­ple set­tings (homes, learn­ing in­sti­tu­tions, com­mu­ni­ties, work­place, etc.) com­pli­cates abil­ity to ef­fec­tively pre­vent and re­spond to gen­der­based vi­o­lence. Se­condly low rates of re­port­ing due to stigma, un­re­spon­sive and com­plex crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, shoddy in­ves­ti­ga­tions and pros­e­cu­tion of GBV cases all present sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges and add to sur­vivor fa­tigue. In many cases, sur­vivors of vi­o­lence get tired try­ing to nav­i­gate all the var­i­ous GBV ser­vices by them­selves, which in­clude med­i­cal, psy­choso­cial ser­vices, seek­ing le­gal ad­vice and rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and en­gag­ing with the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. In ad­di­tion, while some costs in­curred in seek­ing as­sis­tance for a sur­vivor are gen­er­ally sub­sidised, other costs, such as for le­gal ad­vice and rep­re­sen­ta­tion, re­main re­stric­tively high, un­less of­fered at re­duced prices by donor-funded NGO’s.

Stud­ies also in­di­cate that while there ex­ists suf­fi­cient leg­is­la­tion to ad­dress vi­o­lence against women and girls, the poor im­ple­men­ta­tion of na­tional GBV-re­lated laws and the lack of ac­count­abil­ity of pub­lic au­thor­i­ties im­ple­ment­ing them.

The au­thor is a hu­man rights lawyer, cham­pion for gen­der equal­ity and deputy direc­tor for Cen­tre for Rights Ed­u­ca­tion and Aware­ness

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