What you need to know:
- Victor, a GBV victim is deeply hurting but he has no place to run to.
- He is among many men and women violated physically, sexually, psychologically or financially while in the home environment.
- His situation points to an urgency for establishment of safe houses for SGBV victims.
- Makueni is the only county with a government-run safe house for male and female SGBV survivors.
- In some areas, non-governmental organisations run project-based safe houses, which collapse once funds are depleted.
- In April, women’s rights organisations petitioned the government to allocate at least 30 per cent share of Covid-19 funds to provision of safe houses .
Today is another day of pain for Victor (identity protected).
The pain that cuts deep yet nobody can see a scar on the outside.
It is four months now and the 39-year-old is still counting days of psychological abuse perpetuated at home in Kambi Muru area of Kibra slums, Nairobi City County. And the perpetrator is his wife of eight years, with whom he has three children.
The abuse began early April following loss of his job as a construction foreman. His inability to provide, he says, changed his wife’s attitude towards him.
While he lost his regular job, his wife has been lucky to retain her source of income as a casual domestic worker. Hence, she is able to buy food and other household necessities.
But this financial incapacity has drawn him into indescribable emotional pain. He says, although he is deeply hurting, he has no place to run to.
“Where can I go? I cannot go back to the village. How will I explain myself to my family? Will I find a job in the village?” he expresses his distress.
The psychological abuse has stretched from her denying him food, flirting with men before him and shouting at him in the presence of their children.
Victor has been receiving counselling through 1196 – the national toll-free number for men facing Sexual and Gender based Violence (SGBV) - but the desire for peaceful environment is unexplainable.
SOUNDS OF TORMENT
“The counsellors have helped me realise that there is hope in life. But I am so tired of living in the same house with her. The insults are too many and the shouting is too much,” he says in broken sounds of torment.
Victor is not a mere statistic of the many men and women who have been violated physically, sexually, psychologically or financially while in the home environment.
While studies show home is the most dangerous place for women, Victor’s case is an indication of the similar experience for men.
A 2018 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) study on women killed globally, found that 58 per cent of the women died at the hands of intimate partners or family members, concluding that home is the most dangerous place for women.
Men and boys are neither safe. Victor, for instance, says his wife has threatened to burn him with hot water and stab him to death as “he is valueless and useless” since he can no longer provide for his family.
His situation points to an urgency for establishment of safe houses to complete the equation for effective tackling and ending SGBV.
So far, Makueni is the only county with a government-run safe house for male and female SGBV survivors.
In some areas across the country, non-governmental organisations run project-based safe houses, which collapse once funds are depleted.
As such, anti-SGBV campaigners have been calling on government to invest in safe houses to ensure stable provision of safe house services.
In Makueni, the 14-bed facility with eight beds for women and six for men, houses survivors for maximum of two weeks during which they receive both medical care and psychosocial support.
STATE-RUN SAFE HOUSES
“The psychosocial support helps them make a decision on what she or he wants…whether to return to the home or take the matter to court,” Florence Machio, Campaign Officer at Equality Now, explained in an earlier interview.
Ms Machio says adequate State-run safe houses, would bolster fight against SGBV as they would rescue victims from repeated assault, facilitate psychosocial support and aid collection of evidence without interference.
“We are not helping when a victim is just counselled and goes back to the same home where she is violated,” she says. “It is like mopping the floor and leaving the tap open.”
In a June 4, webinar, Cabinet Secretary for Public Service and Gender Prof Margaret Kobia said it is important for the State and non-State actors to go beyond hotlines.
She said it is imperative to address underlying factors drawing back efforts to lower SGBV prevalence.
“Calling the helplines is not a straight forward thing. Some have to hide from their perpetrators to call,” she said during the Accelerating commitments, investments and action on addressing VAWG (Violence Against Women) during and beyond Covid-19 webinar organised by Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (Creaw).
Prof Kobia urged co-partnering with communities in identifying and executing solutions to the root causes of SGBV.
Meanwhile, Creaw executive director Wangechi Wachira reaffirmed that homes are not the safest place for women and hence the need for rescue centres cannot be overlooked.
“We have had so many calls from women saying ‘I cannot continue living in this house, I am facing violence.’ We have to create safe spaces for women where they can find refuge for even a few days,” she noted in the same webinar.
In April, women’s rights organisations petitioned the government to allocate at least 30 per cent share of Covid-19 funds to provision of safe houses alongside cash relief, food and sanitary towels.
The lobby groups including Creaw, Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya (Fida-Kenya) and Coalition on Violence against Women-Kenya, Covaw (K) and Equality Now noted that the Covid-19 pandemic is a wake-up for the government to set up adequate safe houses across the country.