Sexual and domestic violence cases have dramatically shot up, with the latest statistics showing a more than 100 per cent spike in one month.
To control the spread of the Covid-19 disease, the government announced several measures, which include a national dusk to dawn curfew, partial lockdown of certain counties, closure of schools and calls to stay home. Since then, there has been a surge in gender-based violence (GBV), with perpetrators identified as mainly close family members such as intimate partners.
The rise in this form of violence, where women and girls are the main victims, which has also been reported in many countries including the developed nations, is attributed to stress as a result of economic hardship, among other causes.
Data from the national gender helpline 1195 shows that sexual violence, including defilement, physical assault, abduction and neglect of children, as well psychological torture went significantly since the control measures were instituted.
There were a few men who reported being subjected to psychological torture and physical violence by their partners.
In April, for instance, 461 reports of sexual and gender-based violence were made to the 24-hour hotline compared to 115 in March.
Nairobi topped the list in the number of GBV cases reported, followed by Kisumu, Kiambu, Homa Bay, Siaya, Nakuru, Mombasa and Murang’a.
Women aged between 18 to 45 years experienced more violence during this period, according to the data.
“The cases captured during the month of April give an indication that women and girls survivors of GBV continue to suffer the consequences of GBV during the Covid-19 pandemic,’’ says the report from the helpline’s management.
It cited physical injuries, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems including sexually transmitted infections and HIV, and unplanned pregnancies as some of the consequences of the assaults.
INCREASE IN NUMBERS
The management of the helpline, run under the auspices of the Ministry of Gender, says the hotline’s intervention has come in handy, by providing relevant services during the curfew hours.
The report notes that perpetrators are hardly apprehended and taken to court due to the pandemic “as courts continue to work remotely adhering to government set procedures to curb the spread of Covid-19’.’
Independent statistics from different women’s rights organisations from their hotlines also show an increase in case numbers.
Fida-Kenya, for example, has recorded 289 cases in just about two weeks of setting up a toll-free line. During this period — between April 15 and May 3 — the highest recorded cases were on GBV and child custody and maintenance.
The organisation’s data indicates that the GBV cases — mainly intimate partner violence, defilement and rape — are more prevalent in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa, while physical violence and eviction of widows by their in-laws is more prevalent in Western Kenya counties.
“This trend is worrying and we call upon all actors to take the issue of GBV with the seriousness it deserves,’’ says Fida-Kenya, adding that lack of adequate safe houses and shelters exacerbates the situation.
The Centre for Rights Education and Awareness, too has recorded a big number of GBV cases from their hotlines, recording a total of 214 cases from six counties.
Executive Director Leah Wangechi says the cases recorded were of sexual violence, domestic and physical violence and economic in nature.
The cases were recorded between April 1 and May 6, with Nairobi (from March 18), Kilifi and Isiolo counties topping their list.
Others were Meru, Nyeri and Kitui, with two cases of sexual violence reported.
The Coalition on Violence Against Women recorded 17 cases of attacks against women only four days after setting up a toll-free line on May 4.
These organisations are calling for quick intervention to arrest the GBV situation and ensure fast justice for victims, saying that the violence has had devastating effects on some of them.
Difficulties in accessing healthcare services and the fear of seeking counselling because of the containment measures are some of the challenges that the victims face.
Meanwhile, family members also sought help and reported their relatives who either failed to self-isolate or respect quarantine measures and others who appeared to endanger their lives within the family.
In resolving the cases, some of the couples and family members were counselled while other related cases were referred to the police.