Zuia Zogo! End the Shadow Pandemic in Kenya. Stop Sexual and Gender Based Violence.

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A 27 year old mother of two was gang-raped after she sought shelter from an abandoned building following her eviction from her house.

A man in Makueni County killed his wife as his daughter watched before fleeing.

A young banker was killed by his wife at their home in Bamburi, Mombasa County.

A man from Maparasha, Kajiado Central arrested for defiling 6 year old niece.

These are just a few of the headlines that have bombarded the media over the past two months. Unfortunately, they are just a tip of the iceburg.

The COVID-19 crisis has affected millions of people across the globe bringing with it death, fear and uncertainity about the future. The ripple effects of this global pandemic have undoubtedly been felt by each one of us, but some more than others. Specifically, minorities and other vulnerable groups. The spike in sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and child abuse is a the emerging shadow pandemic and is global concern as victims have been locked up with abusive partners in lockdowns or curfew. Economic hardships due to lost jobs or unpaid leave, is also having a mental toll on household providers. Many cases undoubtedly go unreported as curfews and lockdowns continue to be implemented across the country.

The sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) spike in the country, in less than a month, draws attention to urgent intervention. On April 2, Chief Justice David Maraga  noted that there has been a rise in sexual offences since March 13, when coronavirus was first confirmed in Kenya with sexual offences constituting 35.8 per cent of cases recorded since then. The Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs has reported a 42 per cent increase in the past one month. This number is undoubtedly higher as many more cases go unreported due to the stigma associated with SGBV.
 
SGBV is a serious problem in Kenya. About 39 per cent of women and girls aged above 15 years have experienced some form of SGBV. One in four of them experiencing such violence each year, with Kenya losing approximately Sh46 billion annually due to SGBV.

We call on the Government of Kenya to urgently respond to the gender based violence crisis by ensuring the following measures are taken:

1)   Declare protection structures and services for victims of gender-based violence as essential and create a rapid response mechanism for the referral of survivors to services during this period including access to fully resourced and functioning gender desks in all police stations.

2)   Urgently address the dire need for functioning rescue centres by expanding the capacity and resourcing of current rescue centres and establishing new ones in every county to ensure that survivors have the safety and help they need.

3)   That the judiciary accelerates the hearing of SGBV cases in order to ensure access to justice for all survivors.

4)   That the ministry of health ensures that all frontline health workers and Community Health volunteers are trained on gender based violence response and have access to an updated database of GBV service providers to enable survivors to access support when needed.

5)   Incorporate vital information on sexual and gender based violence and child protection into the daily updates, SMS and media messaging as well as in the delivery of educational curricular to increase awareness and response.

6)  The senate to set up an inquiry informs Kenyans number and the state of isolation centres and quarantine facilities countrywide to ensure they comply with minimum human rights standards and are conducive to the needs of all persons, including women, children and persons living with disabilities.

We must ensure that the we leave no one behind as we grapple with this pandemic.