COVID-19 has subjected women and young girls to new social dynamics that have made them more vulnerable to the vicious cycle of domestic and gender based violence.
In my home county of Migori, women and girls who are poor and marginalized have been at an even higher risk of violence from their male counterparts during this period of covid-19 pandemic.
Migori county has recorded more than 1,500 cases of domestic violence since the onset of the covid-19 pandemic with women being victims in 70 percent of the cases. The actual number is significantly higher since domestic violence is normalized and a large majority of cases go unreported.
Article 28 of the constitution clearly states that every person has inherent dignity and the right to have that dignity respected and protected. Gender Based Violence is a violation of human rights that denies the human dignity of the individual and hurts human development.
Despite women playing a big role in the family, they’re the ones dying every day due to violence perpetuated by family members. The death of younger mothers and daughters is indeed tragic because it is said in my community that a home without a daughter is like a spring without a source
Sexual offences such as defilement and rape make up 41 percent of the cases recorded in the local courts since March closure of schools and curfew which has forced millions of children to stay indoors making them vulnerable to abuse.
COVID-19 has exacerbated factors that contribute to domestic violence. Many people lost their jobs and they spend a lot of their time with their families. Quarrels among couples start because the woman sometimes doesn’t have a job and she depended on husband to feed the children.
Due to curfew hours and restricted movement, many children are forced to stay Indoors in abusive homes.
In the last six months Migori county recorded over 1,700 early pregnancies, but the government has not been able to trace all the perpetrators. Poor investigations and high medical fees have also led to permanent disability and death for many victims.
The physical and mental consequences of sexual violence are extremely dire not only to the survivors but also to the family and the society at large since there is fear of victimization by alleged perpetrators.
Even sadder is the fact that many perpetrators are community members, government and security agents and this makes the justice system handicapped when it comes to protecting women.
We need change. We need accountability. We need a reform of systems and accessible medical and legal help for victims of gender based violence. Lives and the future of our women and girls are at stake.
I call upon the county government of Migori through the Ministry of Public Service and Gender to focus on implementation of policies that protect women and girls by establishing institutions that address emerging issues following the pandemic.
Ms Atieno is a youth advocate at the Network for Adolescent and Youth of Africa (NAYA)