Kenya has a wonderfully crafted Sexual Offences Act, but eight years later, its implementation is falling apart despite the presence of a myriad of women’s rights organizations. There is a lot of awareness amongst women about their rights, but men -who incidentally perpetrate most gender based violent crimes- are in the dark.
That is where we are wrong. GBV crimes cannot be fought in the boardrooms, or in forums in which majority of attendees are women. The forums are great for making people aware of their rights and what to do in case they are violated, but unless the perpetrators are engaged, women are still at risk.
We cannot raise awareness through golf tournaments; the men who strip women in public do now enjoy golf. They are people who walk from town to Safaricom Stadium Kasarani or Nyayo National Stadium to watch soccer matches and attend reggae concerts. They are people who sit on stones in town chewing miraa and sometimes overcome their idleness to call passengers to matatus. They are cart pushers and touts in Muthurwa high on cheap alcohol and drugs. They live in informal settlements and sleep in bars. They live from hand to mouth, with no sense of purpose, so anything out of the ordinary, anything perverse, dangerous or even slightly criminal instantly rouse their excitement. They do not know the law. They find comfort and strength in congregating with other men in their circumstance.
These are the people we must reach. If we do not consistently bombard them with the message that women must be respected, and gender based violence –including stripping women naked- is contravention of the Constitution and can attract a prison term of a minimum ten years, then we are preaching to the choir. It cannot be a one-day forum. The message has to be constant through use of radio, which is popular among them, newspapers, posters and leaflets.
The approach towards GBV prevention must target men, and must empower women to speak out and defend their own when they witness GBV.
Rwanda National Police and Defence Force undergo special training on GBV prevention and protection.**
In August 2014, the Rwanda National Police held a month-long campaign against gender violence.
In Kenya, an Administration Police officer was arrested while trying to strip an underage girl in a public service vehicle. Another Administration Police encouraged on social media the violation of women, and was reported to the Independent Police Oversight Authority. It is not clear what action IPOA has taken against the two officers. The Kenya Police Service has a reputation for being insensitive to gender based violence cases, often urge the survivors to settle the dispute outside court. The result is that survivors have no faith that the police will make proper investigations and arrests if GBV cases are reported. The campaigns to have a proper Gender Crimes Unit (as opposed to the current gender desks, which are not in every police station, anyway) have not borne any fruit. It is only recently that the outrage over the public stripping and molestation of women that the Anti-Stripping Squad was formed to target the perpetrators. Kenya urgently needs an Anti- Sexual Gender Based Violence Directorate in the Kenya Police Service.
Still, given the public support of the stripping by a few officers that are supposed to protect the citizens, the Kenya Police Service needs to be specially trained on GBV prevention and protection, and to institute awareness campaigns like marches, CSR days and camps so that the public gets confidence in the officers. There should be also sting operations every month with female police officers dressed in casual clothes to sniff out sex pests.
Anti-GBV committees were established at the grassroots level in all Districts.**
Establishment of anti-GBV committees in each location will help monitor perpetrators. They can headed by the area chief assisted by village elders and a paralegal. The committee can be responsible for awareness at the village level and activism against GBV, as well as community policing. In turn, these committees can be answerable to sub-county or county anti-GBV committees headed by county commissioners.
Tangential to that, the Matatu Owners Association should ensure that only their crew in uniform tout. If they require touts at their termini, then these touts should be in uniform and answerable to the SACCOS.The infamous Umoinner Sacco is actually very organized. No one touts at their terminus without a reflective coat with Umoinner branding. Even within Unoja estate, you will find supervisors at various stages in Umoinner overalls. If Umoinner can do it, why not other Saccos? The same happens with Double M Services. It is practical, it is applicable. We have been blaming touts; perhaps we should try involving MOA and MWA in the security of their termini.
Matatu Saccos need to empower their crew to stop sex offences that happen at their termini. They have the numbers; they can help.
Anti-GBV clubs were established in all schools.**
That sexual gender based violence is a crime should be indoctrinated into the population from the earliest age possible. There is a running theory that men who perpetrate SGBV have no father figures, or have grown up knowing that GBV is acceptable. The establishment of anti-GBV clubs, whose activeness should be ensured through debates, community service, competitions and awards will go a long way in making sure that future generations respect gender rights.
The Government could make it compulsory, or non-profit organizations can champion this.
Each District has an Access to Justice Office with three staff, one of whom is specifically dedicated to fighting against GB.**
This, if replicated in Kenya, will ensure that survivors get legal aid, as well as ensuring that their cases reach the court. Of course, the Office of the Judiciary Ombudsman would have to be active to ensure integrity and intolerance to corruption.
In March of 2012, a sex offenders registry of convicted sex offenders was launched. It was to be maintained by the Registrar of the High Court, but the database is not online.
If possible, there should be established a Gender Crimes court, just as the Children’s Court exists.
**One Stop Centre
At the Isange Centre, which provides 24-hour service, seven days per week, staff available include "one coordinator, nine psychologists, one gynaecologist, six social workers, three medical doctors with medical forensic expertise, four general practitioners, one psychiatric nurse, and one police officer. Additionally the RNP is compelled to investigate all forms of violence and abuse, which essentially gives the victim no choice but to report their case to police if they desire services at the IOSC.**
In Kenya, One Stop Centres were established in district hospitals, but over time, they have been closed down due to funding issues. A case in point is at the Coast General Hospital. This means that increasingly, GBV survivors have had no place to seek refuge other than community based organizations. Right now, some non-profit organizations are reopening the One Stop Centres established by the Government. But this is not a permanent solution as they depend on donor funding.
At the end of each year, there should be established awards for the safest county for women in Kenya, as a motivation towards active participation in anti-GBV campaigns. The awards should also include organizations and individuals who are doing outstanding work in addressing cultural values and GBV-prevention in the community
As things are, the more different women’s rights organizations continue to operate separately, tackling different issues without a central guiding policy, we will continue making strides in making women aware of their rights, but little progress in addressing the perpetrators. Rwanda has a Gender Monitoring Office, which is thoroughly efficient. In Kenya, the National Gender and Equality Commission is more concerned with gender mainstreaming than anything else. When the recent spate of public molestation of women started, there was no particular organization that was at the forefront of fighting against it. Members of Kilimani Mums Nairobi were desperate for backing from leaders, quickly grasping at every word uttered. It was a sorry state.
All non-profit organizations and government departments dealing with women’s rights need to come together and be a forceful lobby for implementation of the Sexual Offences Act 2006. Unless the man in informal settlements and street corners is reached, this fight is redundant.
Last edited 12 December 2014