Kenya: Homa Bay Adopts GBV Paper to Fight for the Vulnerable

13 September 2021

Most sexual abuse cases, especially defilement, remain underreported in Homa Bay County. The few that are reported disappear in thin air before the victims get justice.

Last year when schools were closed for seven months due to Covid-19, about 7,000 female teenagers were reported to have been sexually abused in the county.

The Ministry of Interior and Coordination indicates that some of these teenagers, who were impregnated by people known to them, have already given birth.

Unfortunately, most perpetrators were not arrested due to a weak case reporting system. Those who were arrested were later set free for lack of evidence.

Many locals do not trust the capacity of response structures sometimes and so resort to settle cases outside of the law. This has denied some sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) survivors the justice they deserve.

An organisation dubbed Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV and Aids (Kelin) in partnership with Homa Bay County government has now developed a gender-based violence (GBV) referral document and map for a strengthened GBV response in the county. This is likely to break the barriers that prevent access to justice.

SGBV pathway

The document contains a model referral SGBV pathway, services offered at each provision point, roles of SGBV actors and key contacts in the county.

The map shows locations of GBV service provision points including health facilities, police stations, courts and key referral networks like chiefs and community-based organisation offices.

The County Executive Committee (CEC) Member of Health Services in Homa Bay County Prof Richard Muga, County Police Commander Esther Seroney, County Chief Officer for Gender and Social Services Moses Buriri and the Director of Health Services Gordon Okomo launched the document last Friday.

Prof Muga said the document will guide residents on how to report GBV cases.

"The document incorporates efforts of key institutions such as security officers and health facilities. Through it, residents are expected to understand how to report GBV cases to aid in the fight against vices like defilement, a thorn in the flesh in Homa Bay County," he said.

The CEC said the health department has put in place modalities to ensure GBV survivors get help in all health facilities.

Rights of women

Homa Bay Chief Magistrate Ruth Maloba, County Gender Director William Otago, Ndhiwa Sub-county Children Officer John Kabasa among other government officials and non-State actors including representatives from organisations advocating for the rights of women, children and girls, witnessed the launch.

Kelin Programs Associate for Sexual Reproductive Health Rights Naomi Monda, said they started the initiative after realising that many residents fell victims of GBV but never reported due to fear or lack of knowledge on how to report such cases.

A 2019 study by the organisation in Homa Bay, shows there is a challenge in reporting and documenting SGBV. Kelin established that cases are mainly reported to chiefs, health facilities and the police, with the primary point of reporting sexual assault being health facilities due to the time-sensitive nature of the violation.

"Most victims, especially orphans, widows and other vulnerable family members do not report the cases. We want them to understand their rights and report the cases for help," Ms Monda said.

Mr Buriri said his department has developed a policy that will boost the fight against GBV in Homa Bay. It will soon be tabled before the Cabinet before being taken to the County Assembly for approval.

Ms Sereney, on her part, told residents to shun fear in reporting cases of GBV.

"I also urge residents to cooperate with us when it is time to give evidence. I assure them that we will handle the cases according to the law," the police commander said.

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