JOURNALISTS have been urged to use their pens to help members of the public understand the various laws and policies that protect them against Gender Based Violence (GBV).
The call was made recently by the Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Ms Angela Kairuki, when officiating at a one-day media orientation workshop on laws and policies related to GBV.
Ms Kairuki said that the media is an important institution in assisting the government in curbing GBV through assisting the society to understand the laws and policies that are in place.
She noted that International organizations in many countries, especially in West Africa, have started projects in collaboration with the media in fighting gender based violence.
"GBV takes place within our societies and they have profound implications to the detriment of the health of women and children, which include psychological traumas and the possibility of contracting HIV/Aids," Ms Kairuki noted.
She said that everyone is responsible in helping to eliminate GBV which, she explained, is fomented by outdated traditions and norms. Ms Kairuki named few of the laws that show the governments stand on GBV.
They include the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act of 1998 (SOSPA), the Law of Marriage Act of 1971, the Land Act of 1999, Village Land Act of 1999 and the Anti-trafficking in Persons Act of 2008.
"These laws have sections that oppose any type of gender based violence despite the challenges and weaknesses that these laws may have," she explained. She noted that the government through the health sector has also taken various steps to assist victims of GBV including establishing policy guidelines on how to provide services to such sufferers.
The Deputy Minister hailed the US Aid for International Development (USAID) and The US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for their support and called on other non-state actors including media houses to work tirelessly in complementing the governments' efforts to address GBV.
Dr Monica Mhoja, the Deputy Chief of Party/Technical Director Engender Health Champion Project said GBV has continued to remain a critical problem in the country.
"There are some laws that have sections that touch on GBV but they have numerous gaps. There is a need for revision or updating of the laws and policies that still support GBV," Dr Mhoja explained.
Citing the Law of Marriage Act of 1971, Dr Monica noted that it allows girl-child marriages at the age of 14 years, whereas the same person is considered to be a child in the Employment Act of 2004, Anti-trafficking Act of 2008; the law of the Child Act 2009 and SOSPA.
"It recognizes customary law which impinges women on equal division of property when husband and wife divorce or legally separate, it does not speak about GBV and it is silent on marital rape," she explained.