By Samuel Kisika
Violations of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) will be reported directed to special recovery centres at health facilities in the country, instead of police stations.
However, this will happen only after establishment of the special recovery centres, according to the Department of Gender Affairs.
This is contained in revised guidelines on GBV, which also propose that Gender Unit Officers at police stations be moved to the one-stop recovery centres to attend to survivors.
“Police officer attached to a GBV recovery centres can be physically present at the health facility to collect survivor statements in their daily activity records and issue P3 forms,” reads the 25-page guidelines.
P3 forms is used to request for medical examination by a Medical Officer of Health, in order to determine the nature and extent of the bodily injury sustained by a complainant in assault cases.
The social pillar of Vision 2030 Third Medium Plan 2018-2022, provides for creation of the GBV recovery centres to address GBV and eradicate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Reporting at police stations is usually a painful, traumatic and difficult process for survivors of SGBV especially rape, because of the windy process and related challenges. The police are also engaged with other matters, therefore, no special attention is given to the GBV.
This has made survivors lose hope in reporting the cases to the police while some remain quiet to avoid stigma and the humiliation at the hands of police.
Attaching the Gender Desk police to GBV recovery centres, according to the guidelines, would enable the police officers also work closely with the healthcare givers to expedite the process in preparation for prosecution. At the same time, sign language interpreters based at health facilities to receive reports from survivors.
The survivors will be free to report the abuses to any GBV recovery centre rather than within the area where the crime was committed. The fully equipped recovery centres will offer 24 hours service throughout the week.
“GBV cases of survivors coming from different regions should be handled as well- the police (investigating) officer should properly document these cases and subsequently hand over the cases properly to the right jurisdiction police station- for them to take over the cases,” the guidelines state.
The health care team at the facility will also be required to offer free services to the survivors easing the burden of more than Sh16, 000 for the services.
The redeployment of the police will enhance their work with the devolved units laboratories through scientific analysis of samples and proper storage of DNA database of perpetrators.
The guidelines proposes creation of government chemists in regional blocs across the country. Currently Mombasa, Nairobi and Kisumu are the only counties with the facility.
Health being a devolved function, the guidelines require county governments to ensure the recovery centres are established in health facilities and well-funded to deal with GBV matters.
The guidelines developed by the Ministry of Public Service and Gender to tackle all forms of Gender-Based Violence are to be implemented by a multi-sectoral team.
Some of gender-based violence cases include child and forced marriages, female genital mutilation, forced abortions and sterilisation and domestic violence. Others include trafficking for sex or slavery and sexual harassment and violence.
To achieve the intended goal, the county governments, social workers, facility health management team and the police must work together in a complementary manner. Other stakeholders are the government chemist, ministry of Health, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution and the state department of Gender.
Cabinet Secretary Margret Kobia says eradicating SGB in Kenya is a government’s key priority through implementation of various initiatives.
“These include the establishment of Gender Desks in police stations, capacity building on GBV, establishment of toll free hotlines such as 1195, establishment of gender violence recovery centres and rescue homes as well as advocacy campaigns against GBV,” Kobia says.
During the launch of the 2020 16 days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence in Nairobi on November 25, she said Kenya would stop at nothing, to ensure women and girls are safe from violence targeted at them.
SGBV remains a huge problem in Kenya, with cases shooting up dramatically since Covid-19 struck in March, 2020.
The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of 2014 states that 45 percent of women and girls aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical abuse while 14 percent have experienced sexual violence.
Findings have shown that cases of gender-based violence against women and girls have risen since Coronavirus disease was declared a global pandemic in March this year prompting lockdowns and other measures to curb it.
School closures and economic strains left women and girls poorer, and more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, abuse, teenage pregnancies, forced marriage, and harassment due to stay at home rules imposed by governments.
The Cabinet in September 2020 approved an inter-agency program on gender-based violence to help combat the menace by addressing social and cultural practices promoting GBV. This is to be achieved through engaging various stakeholders like men and boys, cultural and religious groups and the media.
The program also seeks swiftly delivery of justice through prosecution of GBV perpetrators and access to quality essential services by the survivors.