What you need to know:
- Many men have suffered intimate partner abuse in the wake of the Covid-19, having lost their power to sustain their families.
- With safe spaces to free themselves up, many men would be saved from falling into depression and committing suicide.
- Of the 51 private-run shelters registered with National Shelters Network, none is exclusively committed to male SGBV survivors.
Covid-19 has proved the urgency to establish shelters for men who have survived sexual and gender based violence (SGBV).
Counselling psychologist and Nairobi City County’s nominated Member of the County Assembly (MCA) Ariviza Mwami observes that many men have suffered intimate partner abuse in the wake of the Covid-19, having lost their power to sustain their families.
“There are men who have been beaten thoroughly and chased away by their wives because they could not provide for their families,” she said last Friday during a forum in Nairobi that was organised by Voice for Women and Girls' Rights-Kenya.
The meeting brought together the media, officers from Ministry of Gender, Nairobi Metropolitan Services and Nairobi City County MCAs to discuss the county’s SGBV Management and Control Bill, 2019 sponsored by nominated MCA Wanjiru Kariuki.
The Bill seeks to have shelters established in all the 17 sub-counties where GBV survivors would temporarily stay while receiving counselling and training on life skills.
“We must have one or two safe houses for men. They are really suffering and when they come to a counsellor, they just burst into tears,” she said.
With safe spaces to free themselves up, many men would be saved from falling into depression and committing suicide, she argued.
The shelters should, however, be established in secluded areas to ensure the privacy of the men and encourage more to open up, she observed.
Of the 51 private-run shelters registered with National Shelters Network, none is exclusively committed to male SGBV survivors.
But men are equally victims of SGBV, especially during the lockdowns when many lost jobs and were grounded with their families, with nothing or little to eat.
Twenty nine per cent of the 2,416 GBV cases reported between January and June last year, were of male as victims, according to a study done by National Crime Research Centre.
Recently, Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti released data indicating at least 483 people committed suicide between March and June, this year. Although, he didn’t provide sex disaggregated data, he indicated men were more prone to committing suicide than women.
Should the Bill become law, the county will then implement it in cognisant of the guidelines on establishing the shelters set by Gender ministry.
Under the Safe Spaces Models and Applicability Manual safe and protective spaces “should be located near amenities such as community centres, markets, schools, police stations and health facilities.”
They should also be in areas which are physically safe and easily accessible at all hours. And in this case, security of the place should be determined upon consultation with men and boys alongside women and girls.
Voice for Women and Girls' Rights-Kenya Project Director Sammy Muraya, said unless the chains of silence are broken, cases of SGBV will continue to go unreported and the survivors will forever remain with scars without a breath of justice or mental healing.
“One of the biggest problems we have is the silence. That is why most of these cases go unreported,” he said.
He suggested that health workers be enabled to report on behalf of survivors who are repeatedly abused, yet they cannot make formal complaints due to either hopelessness or fear of stigma and reprisal.