Joint Statement from Government of Kenya, Embassy of Finland, Embassy of Italy and UN Women on 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence
Rape is one of the most violent and traumatic experiences for an individual to endure. In addition to the immediate physical and psychological trauma of rape, survivors are at increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and face stigma from the local community that forces them to keep silent.
Despite these horrifying realities, society has entrenched the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies on screens, indifference to consent, and the glamorization of violence in ads. Victim-blaming, trivializing of rape and the stigma faced by survivors are still far too common. The understanding of mutual consent: that only yes means yes, given freely without manipulation or coercion – is paramount in the prevention and eradication of rape and sexual harassment.
Sexual violence and harassment take place in our homes, public spaces, workplaces, on our streets and on our campuses; and exposure is heightened in conflict and emergency contexts. Sexual violence against women and girls is often used as a deliberate weapon in conflicts. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights reported that sexual assault accounted for 25% of all human rights violations during the 2017 electoral violence. In preparation for the next elections, multi-sectoral efforts are needed to prevent violence and conflict from erupting, and to ensure the safety of women and girls, with a focus on hot spots areas.
Women and girls in Kenya often experience alternate but equally damaging forms of sexual and gender-based violence, both emotionally and physically, including child, early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation and femicide. One in three women globally are affected by gender-based violence, and in Kenya, statistics record 45% of women and girls aged 15-49 being affected. 1 in 5 women have experienced female genital mutilation in Kenya, while 23% of the nation’s girls are married before their eighteenth birthday, and 4% before their fifteenth birthday. Exact numbers of rape and sexual assaults are difficult to assert due to reluctance or fear by survivors, and inefficiency in addressing reports through lack of capacity, resources, and sometimes will.
The health sector, law enforcement and judiciary are the primary duty bearers in eradicating what has become one of the most pervasive and unabated human rights violations in modern society. To survivors of all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, duty bearers can do more for their access to justice as well as immediate – potentially life-saving – physical and psychosocial care. There is need to strengthen the cooperation and coordination between these institutions and remove the barriers that exist along a survivor’s pathway through the courts. Having more women in the police force and adequate training is a crucial first step in ensuring that survivors begin to trust authorities and feel that their complaint is being taken seriously at every stage of what can be a complex process. Progress also requires that we successfully remove the many structural barriers, patriarchal systems and negative stereotyping around gender that exist in security, police and judicial institutions.
The Government of Kenya has clear legislation and policies on prevention and responding to gender-based violence and the State Department of Gender is working tirelessly to coordinate these efforts. The President of Kenya, H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta has made strong commitments to lead towards the eradication of gender-based violence and harmful practices by 2030 and to eradicate the practice of FGM by 2022. This strong commitment and leadership guides and inspires all actors, including cultural and religious leaders, to increase efforts to prevent these appalling human rights violations. The Embassy of Finland, the Embassy of Italy and UN Women commend this leadership and reiterate their commitments made during the Nairobi Summit ICPD+25 to support Government of Kenya to accelerate elimination of these harmful practices by 2030.
The 16 Days of Activism to End Gender Based Violence is an annual international campaign which runs from 25th November to 10th December, calling for the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls. This year, we jointly call on people from all walks of life to learn more and take a stand against the pervasive rape culture that surrounds us. Those who use rape as a weapon know how powerfully it traumatizes and how it suppresses voice and agency. This is an intolerable cost to society. No further generations must struggle to cope with a legacy of violation.