The UN International Women’s Day, marked every March 8 in support of action against gender inequality, was first celebrated in 1975. On today’s anniversary, let us call for an end to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
SGBV, especially against women, results in physical, sexual or psychological harm. UN data show one in three (33 per cent) women experience such violence. In Kenya, 41 per cent of women have reported violence cases with the figure increasing.
Let us condemn this worrying action in the society .Despite the adoption of the UN Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw), in 1979, violence against women and girls is a pervasive problem globally. More than one in four women will be beaten or sexually abused by a partner on her lifetime, according to WHO.
In Kenya, there has been a rampant increase in cases of violence against women. In October last year, global athletics icon Agnes Tirop was stabbed to death at her home in Iten in a suspected case of domestic violence. Police arrested her husband in connection with the death.
Mitigation measures against the Covid-19 pandemic—such as lockdowns, lay-offs and school closures—since the disease broke out in early 2020 worsened the pre-existing factors and inequalities that contribute to SGBV. Movement restrictions made it difficult for victims to access help. Increased cases of every form of SGBV against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, were reported.
There is still a long way to go as far as eradicating SGBV is concerned but, this Women’s Day, all avenues should be explored to stop it. Only two out of three countries have outlawed domestic violence while 37 still exempt perpetrators of rape from persecution if they are married to or eventually marry the victim and 49 have no laws against SGBV.
But there is hope. Over the years, we have seen increasing efforts by the UN, governments, NGOs, women’s groups, community groups and other networks to eliminate SGBV. There is better understanding of the nature and scope of SGBV and its impact on women and society. Legal and policy frameworks have been established at the national and international levels.
To protect women and girls from SGBV, enforcement and implementation of related laws and policies is necessary. That includes training of the police and those who provide medical and legal support to the survivors.
In addition, men’s and community leaders must be sensitised on the rights of women through community health volunteers, women’s groups and civil society organisations. Also, engage boys and young men to become agents of change.
Let us be courageous enough to speak out for those who have lost their dignity through SGBV. We should speak out against racist and sexist remarks, even those uttered as ‘jokes’. Besides, governments should continue raising awareness of the dangers of harmful traditions.
SDGs can’t be achieved with violence against women and girls.
Rodgers Otiso & Aggrey Karani, Migori