The overall population in Kenya stands at 35,514, 542 where by men form 49.3 percent while women form 50.7 percent. The gender situation in Kenya is wanting due to the patriarchal nature of the society. The Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs) that diminish the status of women, men, boys and girls still persist despite various approaches taken by the state to help curb this situation. These practices include FGM/C, early marriages, cattle wrestling, sexual harassment, polygamy and bride inheritance. Other practices that also promote inequality in the status of men, women, boys and girls in Kenya are sex trafficking and forced prostitution.
The term Gender Based Violence, refers to any act that results in, or is likely to result to physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to an individual, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life subjected to the individual on the basis of their gender. GBV not only violates a survivor’s integrity, but also their sense of safety and control over life.
GBV cuts across all ages, educational levels, religions, sexual orientations and physical descriptions. Religious beliefs and education have no influence on a woman’s vulnerability. The elderly, mentally and physically disabled are often victimized because they are seen helpless.
In Kenya, a number of cases have been reported by individuals, being at the end of the receivership in these kind of violence in different forms. Ranging from domestic violence, physical abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse and economic abuse. Domestic violence escalates from threats and verbal abuse to violence.
And while physical injury may be the most obvious danger, the emotional and psychological consequences are also severe. Some traditional and emerging forms being faced by women include, female genital Mutilation, child marriages more so of young girls, trafficking in women and girls for sex trade, forced prostitution, and sex tourism that have become the focus of organized crimes not forgetting cybercrime which has led to pedophile cases.
Statistics show that physical abuse and sexual violence are the most rampant, at 80% and 90% respectively, with women being the most attacked at 57%, children at 40% and men at 3%. More than 1/3 of women, i.e. 39%, in Kenya have suffered physical violence at some point since age 15, and One- in five women (21%) have experienced Sexual Violence.
In mitigating Gender Based Violence, there is need to redefine the role of the society and specifically the family in knowing their importance of protection and providence to the girl child and women in the house, and not used as objects or punching bags. Gender sensitivity has to be achieved at the family level before it is embraced by the society.
There should be a Multi-sectorial approach to prevention and management where different organizations join forces together with Policy makers and law enforcers in campaigning for the need to respect family life, and advocating for peace and educational initiatives.
Developing an understanding of the basic legal concepts such as justice, authority, freedom, privacy, equality, honesty and fairness is another way of fighting this disease of Violence that has eaten our society.
We need community awareness campaigns, public engagement where men especially, are involved and at the fore front of this. Early start ups of school campaigns and intergenerational dialogues is vital too. However all these can only be achieve if we break the silence and criminalize Gender Based Violence in practices.
Violence will never be an answer and it can never be acceptable. Everyone deserves to feel valued, respected and safe.
Gender Based Violence is not out there with them, it is here with us, so let us take action individually and if possible collectively!