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Inclusive measures to combat gender, sexual violence timely

Wednesday March 18 2020
By NJERI RUGENE

A fortnight ago, a young man appeared on television to break his silence on a horrible experience that many would rather keep to themselves.

The eloquent university student decided to go public after weeks of internal suffering, on a most traumatising experience.

He had attended a friend’s birthday party in campus when, at some point, five of his colleagues gang-raped him and took off.

As he struggled in pain in the dead of the night, a Good Samaritan passed by and rushed him to hospital. Unconscious, he was strangely, and quickly, put in the mortuary!

A week later, on the same channel, a traumatised middle-aged mother had a harrowing tale. She narrated how her husband had openly taken in her young daughter as a second wife, built her a house and the two were (then) living “happily’’ in an incestuous relationship as the community looked on. She also spoke of another daughter who had been forced by her weird husband to cut short her education in Form 3.

This and many more horrific tales of a criminal nature were told to the shocked presenters. The woman and the journalists sent out an appeal for help and to the Education ministry to have the teenager taken back to school.

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These are just among hundreds of cases of sexual abuse and gender-based violence against children, women, girls, and even men — as in the case of the student — that happen daily but go unreported.

The malfeasance that is sexual and gender-based violence is not only the worst kind of human rights violations, abuse and breaches but also a pertinacious crime that must be prioritised.

The rampant cases of sexual, domestic, incest and all forms of gender-based violence (GBV) call for a change of strategy and real commitment to right the situation, if we are to bridge the gap of gender inequality, which hampers women’s economic progress.

Both levels of government must also make genuine commitment and willingness to put in place interventions to stop discriminatory practices that give rise to GBV and ensure safety and security, especially for women, girls and children at home and in public spaces. It is the right thing to do.

That is why recommendations to the Building Bridges Initiative Steering Committee by women under the Common Women’s Agenda on Sexual and GBV need to be taken in and implemented.

Under Agenda 6, on Safety and Security, the women propose that SGBV be recognised as a serious crime and national security concern that should be addressed by the National Security Council (NSC).

The NSC, which is chaired by the President and is constitutionally responsible for national security, should every two years address the nation on the status of SGBV.

The Common Women’s Agenda has a significant recommendation, that all leaders — especially men — lead the nation in implementation of “Zero tolerance to SGBV”, in all its forms, in institutions at every level.

This includes political and electoral violence, female genital mutilation, child marriage, femicide, defilement, child sexual abuse, incest, teenage pregnancies, child prostitution, trafficking and slavery, sexual harassment, sexism and sexual stereotyping.

Women also propose that the national and county governments, in partnership with non-state actors, should guarantee special security for survivors of SGBV and vulnerable members of the society.

If such measures are taken, the grim statistics on VAWG and SGBV will go down.

Ms Rugene is a consulting editor. [email protected] @nrugene

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