Study: Intimate partner violence rose at the height of Covid crisis

GBV victim.

Photo credit: Eliud Mumo | Shutterstock

What you need to know:

  • Creaw executive director Wangechi Wachira terms it sad that many women continue to suffer in abusive relationships, with some losing their lives, body parts and families.
  • Gender Chief Administrative Secretary Lina Chebii Kilimo says the government is committed to ending GBV. She encouraged victims to speak up to pave the way for assistance.

Women in Nairobi, Isiolo, Mombasa, Kilifi and Narok counties have experienced increased intimate partner violence since the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country.

This is according to a study by the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (Creaw). They say the violence has also been severe and has mostly been physical through beating, hitting, and slapping by their partners.

The study was conducted between June and July 2021 and its findings launched in December. It reveals other common forms as emotional violence in the form of abuse, humiliation, threats; and sexual violence in the form of rape.

In the report titled Women’s Experiences on Intimate Partner Violence during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, economic violence also features prominently, with the women complaining that their men have been refusing to give money for basic family needs and misusing the limited family resources available.

Risk factors

In many instances, women admitted to experiencing more than one form of violence simultaneously. Some of the risk factors identified by the study as drivers of intimate partner violence in homes during the Covid-19 crisis include disruption of jobs and family economy, couples spending more time together, increased alcohol use and loss of social support structures in society.

Creaw executive director Wangechi Wachira termed it sad that many women continue to suffer in abusive relationships, with some losing their lives, body parts and families.

“I want to advise women that it is better I live as a woman rather than die in these abusive relationships. Those in them should get out to safeguard their lives,” she said.

Wachira emphasised the significance of statistics in informing policy actions towards combating gender-based violence (GBV).

“Given the cases of gender violence have hit the roof since the onset of Covid-19 in March last year, the statistics are crucial as they will help us know what we need to do better and focus our attention on,” she added.

Gender Chief Administrative Secretary Lina Chebii Kilimo said the government is committed to ending GBV. She encouraged victims to speak up to pave the way for assistance.

To deal with the rising cases of GBV, Kilimo said the government has come up with a toll free line, 1195, through which survivors can get tele-counselling and help. She said the ministry has also come up with Komesha Dhuluma Mobile App *483*306# to report GBV cases.

Consolata Waithaka, the founder of Women’s Hope Shelter Kenya in Nairobi, said many women have sought refuge at her centre.

“We had a number of women seeking our help during that time, but some of them were coming from far away. If only there were centres that were nearer to them, then maybe they would have got help even sooner,” Waithaka said.

She called on the government to hasten its efforts to construct rescue centres for survivors, especially in the rural areas.

Sustained campaign

Lead researcher Linah Digolo said the government should not lower its guard just because Covid-19 containment measures have been eased.

“Even though containment measures have begun to ease, the social and economic impact of the pandemic will linger on for a while. Therefore, the risk factors of intimate partner violence are likely to continue,” she said.

To deal with the increasing cases of GBV, the report has recommended that the national and county governments allocate additional resources for Covid-19 national and county response plans and integrate violence prevention and response policies.

It has also recommended the inclusion of policies to protect survivors in their contingency plans through prevention, response and risk mitigation activities.

The UN Women recently revealed that calls to helplines and domestic violence reports on girls and women increased by 25-33 per cent in various countries, indicating increased domestic violence and demand for emergency shelters.

High Court Judge George Odunga in November last year advised people to walk away from their violent partners. Upholding a 30-year jail sentence against Stephen Ngila Nthenge, who chopped his wife’s hands off, Justice Odunga said couples should not insist on staying on when marriage or union has broken.

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.