What you need to know:
- Evidence shows that most gender based violence victims are women and the perpetrators men.
- Additional data shows that gender based violence in Kenya and globally increased during Covid lockdowns.
Several tragic stories of gender-based violence have been in the news recently. Two women athletes met violent, suspicious deaths, with valid reasons to consider their intimate partners as primary femicide suspects. Further, viral CCTV footage in a city hotel depicted women being beaten by angry, vicious men.
These reported cases happened to people who are in, or have access to, the public eye. But the vast majority of such cases go unreported, and happen to people who will never make news headlines. They may not even be represented by statistics. Evidence shows that most gender based violence victims are women and the perpetrators men.
Additional data shows that gender based violence in Kenya and globally increased during Covid lockdowns. It is, however, problematic to blame any crisis for the increase in social phenomena that should not even exist. While criminalised by laws, gender based violence is still enabled by entrenched cultural, social and religious norms which continue to accord men dominance at women's expense.
Men are thus empowered to enforce and maintain supremacy at all costs, leading to the oppression, abuse, injury, and deaths of countless women. This happens not just in domestic contexts or at the hand of partners, but in the workplace, the wider community and everywhere.
Existing policies have mapped out the state's three main responsibilities towards survivors: legal duty (proper investigation and prosecution of abusers); financial duty (ensuring baseline welfare like food, education and shelter support, especially for those left vulnerable by the exit of an abuser); and healthcare duty (timely quality, holistic care for acute and chronic needs of survivors).
Support for survivors
The state must, therefore, acknowledge and remediate its profound failure to look out for hundreds of thousands of victims. Accountability begins by the public demanding more support for survivors and their networks towards justice and healing. This is not just a problem for the line ministry for gender, but utmost priority for all.
As part of the justice process, abusers must also cede the privileges that enable their abuse, commit to help and treatment for change, and make full amends. Society must also listen to survivors of this abuse, and meet their needs. We must never forget each name of those taken by femicide because each death was a choice made by the murderer with community enabling.
Each of us must personally consider and deal with collective hypocrisy and double standards that allow for violent men to get away with being violent as an acceptable way of being. We must stop empty public stances against violence, and meanwhile enabling harm and protecting abusers.
We are long overdue for honest conversations and urgent actions, which have been avoided for so long at such high human cost. Making these changes will begin to enable healing for survivors, justice and safety for us all.
The writer is a policy analyst. [email protected]