What you need to know:
- Policare is the country’s first one-stop solution to respond and manage incidences of SGBV in Nairobi County.
- It is designed to host all professionals involved in delivering justice to offenders.
- Complete with a 24-hour toll-free service for victims, it will host victims’ interview rooms, crime records room, a triage, forensic evidence storage room, trauma centres, a room for medical examination and P3 issuance and male and female holding cells.
The global champion for gender equality, UN Women, in April, described gender-based violence as the shadow pandemic happening during the Covid-19 contagion. This was as a result of increased reports of women being violated during their stay at home when most countries were on lockdown across the world.
UN Women notes that wide under-reporting of domestic and other forms of violence has continuously made response and data gathering a challenge, with less than 40 per cent of women who experience violence seeking help of any sort.
Of the 40 per cent, less than 10 per cent of those seeking help go to the police.
Closer home, the government announced strict penalties against sexual offenders last month, with the President issuing a directive to the National Crime Research Centre (NCRC) to probe the vices and security agencies to initiate immediate prosecution of perpetrators following alarm over increasing cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) against women.
Since then, there has been no word on the progress to fulfil the directives apart from the recent groundbreaking of the country’s first one-stop solution to respond and manage incidences of SGBV dubbed Policare (Police cares) in Nairobi County.
The model unit by the National Police Service (NPS) is designed to host all professionals involved in delivering justice to offenders while preserving the dignity of the victims plus the evidence they produce is expected to replace gender desks present in all stations.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Edward Mbugua notes that Policare model will be more of a system than a single physical identity intended to meet the dual objectives of improving care and support for survivors and increasing prosecution of the perpetrator.
Complete with a 24-hour toll-free service for victims, Policare will host victims’ interview rooms for women and children, crime records room, a triage, forensic evidence storage room, trauma centres, a room for medical examination and P3 issuance and male and female holding cells.
This is a complete contrast to the gender desks which basically were desks placed within police stations with a logo labelled ‘Gender Desk’ manned by two officers mostly female.
While that was done to help women feel comfortable reporting violations meted upon them, it failed to recognise that men also fall victims of gender violence, with research showing that they have been non-effective in the fight against SGBV.
The desks also denied victims privacy and space to heal and share evidence seeing that sexual violations are deeply personal and highly intrusive.
A Kenyatta University research on the effectiveness of gender desks in the country noted inadequate staff, wanting infrastructure, lack of budgetary allocations as well as lack of continuous training as the problems affecting the realisation of their intended purpose.
“Due to the staff inadequacy, the two officers often get allocated other duties which in turn, affects their effectiveness in addressing GBV cases. These affect victims who then have to wait for long before being served and the cases they investigate suffer because they are allocated inadequate time,” the research noted.
Because of limited funding, officers manning the desks could not conduct patrols, move to crime scenes and promptly attend to distress. The little they received from the sub-county Police commanders catered for the basics like traveling to court to testify and purchasing stationery.
However, with Policare, yet to be launched, victims will be assured of the being served by trained officers, medical personnel, trauma counselors and a court room.
The National Gender and Equality Commission has committed to support the project and ensure it’s operational.
“The Commission will share with Policare project, the data gathered through our revamped sexual and gender-based violence information system to inform your programming,” NGEC Chair Dr Joyce Mutinda said.
And with the introduction of the digital OB (Occurrence Book) the government will now be able to instantly collate SGBV statistics.