Police trained to tackle poll-related SGBV

At least 201 reported cases of sexual violence that emerged from the 2017 post-election violence remain unresolved five years later.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • UN Women and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Kenya organised the training.
  • UN Women programme specialist Mary Wanjiru noted that building the capacity of law enforcers is crucial to prevention or response to violence against women. 

Police have been trained to curb sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) before, during and after next Tuesday’s general election.

UN Women and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Kenya sought to equip the officers with expertise on how best to prevent and respond to election-related SGBV.

UN Women programme specialist Mary Wanjiru noted that building the capacity of law enforcers is a critical component of their project, which aims at preventing and responding to violence against women during elections. 

“The police in Kenya represent one of the most important parts of the jigsaw when it comes to GBV prevention and response. In previous elections, there have been significant challenges in processing cases and ensuring survivors receive justice for the violations committed against them,” said Ms Wanjiru.

Rights-based approach

She added the training will help bring the service onto the same page in terms of a survivor-centred and rights-based approach to dealing with SGBV as we enter the election week, a time often associated with violence.

A further 846 officers across 12 potentially violent hotspot counties, including Nairobi, Nakuru, Mombasa and Kisumu, were also trained in public order management and prevention and response to violence against women.

The two organisations have also targeted community human rights defenders to build their capacity and understanding of the referral pathway for SGBV. They are supporting their participation in local court users’ committees to make them more conversant with related laws and procedures.

The project, supported by the government of Italy, was established in 2019, based on a gap analysis report on previous electoral violence responses. One of the key highlights was a lack of capacity among law enforcement and security agents to deal with SGBV. Survivors also lacked the knowledge of how and where to report. 

Women, girls bear the brunt

Women and girls most of the time bear the brunt of electoral violence. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), in a 2018 report titled Silhouettes of Brutality based on the 2017 election, exposed how women and girls suffered.

The report showed that besides ordinary Kenyans, police were perpetrators of SGBV against women and girls. It focusses on post-election violations mainly after the announcement of the first presidential results on August 11, 2017, and months prior to and after the re-run on October 26, 2017.

It puts police at 54 per cent of the violations and civilians at 45 per cent, noting that some security officers took advantage of the mayhem to indiscriminately raid homes and violate women and girls, most of whom were not involved in protests.

Security deployment

During the past electioneering period, the government deployed 180,000 police officers from the National Police Services, Kenya Prisons Service, Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Service and National Youth Service to provide security. The commission’s findings indicate that the majority of those abused came from informal settlements where fierce protests were witnessed.

The report further contains findings of cases recorded in nine counties, including Nairobi, Kisumu, Vihiga, Kakamega, Migori, Siaya, Busia, Homa Bay and Bungoma. Machakos and Uasin Gishu counties had one case each.

Most survivors described their attackers as having been dressed in security uniforms. They also cited AK-47 guns and tear-gas canisters carried by the attackers. SGBV, according to the report, accounted for 25 per cent of recorded human rights violations.

It adds that the most affected were women, at 96 per cent, with men at four per cent. Older persons were not spared, with the eldest survivors being a 70-year-old woman and a 68-year-old man. Children were also subjected to brutality.

KNCHR observed that the highest cases were in August 2017, with rape accounting for over 71 per cent of cases recorded.