Official: Build safe houses for men beaten at home
More male survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (GBV) are in need of safe houses and spaces that offer shelter and solace, the Ministry of Health says. The call comes at a time when more Kenyan men and women now feel unsafe in their homes due to abuse by partners. Dr Andrew Mulwa, acting Director of Medical Services, Preventive and Promotive Health at Ministry of Health said that violence against men has not been given the attention it deserves.
“SGBV cases against men has not come out well. We need to create more safe spaces where male survivors can seek refuge,” said Mulwa during the ongoing gender-based violence prevention and response scientific conference in Nairobi.
Safe houses play a fundamental role in rescuing and caring for survivors of SGBV - girls, women and even boys. According to the Kenya Violence Against Children report of 2010, one in five Kenyan males have experienced sexual violence before the age of 18 years. Mulwa said the increasing number of male SGBV survivors is a ticking time bomb-with minimal cases being reported.
Most men prefer to keep silent on their issues as compared to women. “We have a rise in cases of men who are abused and do not have anywhere to go,” Mulwa noted.
The Ministry of Gender said while there was a spike in cases of domestic violence during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown in 2020, this violence has continued even after the measures were eased.
Gender Principal Secretary Prof Colleta Suda said the cases have been rising since 2019. The Kenya Health Information System data from January to June 2021 revealed that 10,997 females and 717 males were victims of GBV compared to a similar period in the year 2020 where 7,291 females and 500 males.
Sadly, the number of GBV cases recorded between January and June 2020, according to the National Crime Research Centre (NCRC) increased by 92.2 per cent compared to those between January and December the previous year.
Reported GBV cases increase
The NCRC is a state corporation under the Ministry of Interior researching the causes of crime, and its prevention and disseminating the findings and recommendations to various state agencies.
“We are recording rising numbers of cases. SGBV continues to be a serious global health challenge, human rights violation, and development issue and a great challenge in the 21 century. Covid-19 pandemic has not made things easier,” Prof Suda said during the event.
Further the Chief Justice’s report of April 2020, sexual offences constituted 35.8 percent of reported cases handled within the judiciary, a significant increase from 2019, Prof Suda added. “This was a rise from the previous year,” she said.
NCRC says the most common forms of GBV recorded in 2020 were murder, sexual offences, defilement, grievous harm, attempted defilement, sexual abuse, physical abuse and child marriage. President Uhuru Kenyatta in June last year promised the government would work to end GBV including sexual violence by 2026.
Health CAS Mercy Mwangangi noted that the government is committed to eliminating all forms of gender-based violence. “We have a clear political commitment from the president and from all policyholders and leaders,” Ms Mwangangi said while narrating how she once fell victim to SGBV.
The Gender PS noted the government is on track to develop guidelines for the establishment of GBV Recovery Centres. On the GBV Survivors Fund, she noted that several civil society organizations with support from Mastercard Foundation have established the Jasiri fund in 10 counties to support the survivors in the provision of personal grants and affordable loans.
“Implementation of these commitments is a clear demonstration of the political goodwill. These commitments are intended to build momentum towards the realisation of a safe and secure society for all. We need to work together strategically to end GBV,”added the PS.
National Aids and STIs Control Programme head Dr Rose Wafula said sexual violence also exposes many victims to HIV infection. The Kenya Population-based HIV Impact Assessment 2018 survey showed there are about 400,000 new HIV infections every year-some of them from sexual violence.
“What SGBV survivors go through is totally unnecessary. It should be prevented early enough,“ Wafula said. Dr Lina Digolo, senior associate and a researcher at Prevention Collaborative stressed the need to focus more attention on SGBV prevention mechanisms.
Dr Digolo added that “Primary prevention of SGBV is one of the missing links in the fight against ending the problem in the country.” “We cannot be strengthening the systems at the base of the stream, but we need more effort at the upstream where the problem starts.”
The health ministry also used the occasion to launch several documents including, the Kenya Health Sector Gender-Based Violence Service Quality Assurance Tool, which will support the prevention and elimination of SGBV cases.