Celestine Nafula who hails from Bungoma County is a survivor of GBV. She was abused by her husband but her efforts to seek an audience with the area chief bore no fruits as no action was taken against the perpetrator. ‘I decided to seek help from a nearby community-based group but they said they did not have the structures in place to assist me. I just let it go.” she says.
Separately, Evans Mukhalama, a male survivor abused by his wife sought help from a nearby police station but despite promises of follow up, not much has been done to date. After the ordeal, where he sustained serious injuries, his wife took off leaving him with their children and has been unable to take care of them.
Cases of gender-based violence have increased exponentially in recent years with the last year seeing the most recorded cases. The National Crime Research Centre (NCRC) reported that the total number of GBV cases increased by 87.7 per cent between April–June 2020 due to Covid-19 related restrictions on assembly and mobility. Women and girls living in poverty were particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and abuse. However, men also experienced intimate partner violence although they were afraid to speak out for fear of ridicule.
With over 40% of women in Kenya likely to face physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime, and over one in five girls facing child marriage or female genital mutilation (FGM), Kenya has a long way to go. Survivors often have nowhere to run to as there is only one government-run shelter in Makueni County with the rest being privately owned cumulating to only about 40 across the country.
Bungoma sub-county police commander, Benjamin Kimwele says that a high percentage of those who report are women who have experienced intimate spousal violence with the rest of the cases being children abused by their parents. He added that they monitor cases to ensure justice is served.
Joyce Nabalayo, a gender specialist and activist for 10 years hand in hand with different organizations to give a helping hand to survivors as well as help them seek justice. She says GBV has become the norm with some women from the Bukusu community celebrating it when they are beaten citing love from their spouses. She links the patriarchal society we live into the reason why women celebrate when abused. She also noted that women have to rely on their abusive partners to finance them as they seek medical attention after a beating. The lack of financial freedom forces women to stay in abusive relationships as they have no means to support themselves.
Joyce says to incentivize survivors to come out and report cases of GBV, the justice process should be free of charge and private to ensure survivors feel safe. She also advocates for police officers to be trained on how to handle GBV survivors since police stations are normally the first point of contact for them as they report their assault.
However, there is hope for GBV survivors as in June 2021, the Kenyan government committed to ending GBV including sexual violence by 2026. It promised to intensify its campaigns to end these violations by undertaking a series of bold commitments that would remove systemic barriers that allow GBV to thrive.
The original story, ‘Pengo la Haki Katika Visa Vya Dhuluma Za Kijinsia’ was aired on 10th September 2021 on Tandaza FM and reported by Jackline Opiyo.