Sexual gender and reproductive rights in Kenya, a battle yet to be won

Sexual gender and reproductive rights in Kenya, a battle yet to be won

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In June 2021, the Government of Kenya made a valiant commitment to end Gender-Based Violence (GBV) including sexual violence by 2026.

When making the announcement, President Kenyatta promised to intensify the campaign to end these violations by undertaking a series of 12 bold commitments that would remove the systemic barriers that allow GBV to thrive.

Almost two years down the road, we still have women being stripped naked in broad daylight, women being denied opportunities based on their gender, and people still making women feel like 3rd class citizens.

I know, we are meant to be the second-class citizen from history blah, blah, blah… but we sometimes are thrown to number 3 by the way we get treated.

It is not a fluke in the system, it is by design, evident in the jobs we get rewarded for and for the times we must shut mansplaining. Kenya has a long way to go when it comes to sexual gender-based violence.

With over 40% of women in Kenya likely to face physical violence, including lifetime physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime, and more than one in five girls facing child marriage or Female Genital Mutilation, Kenya has a long way to go.

We’ve seen these violations worsened by humanitarian crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and crises related to electoral seasons, and this will continue without sustained action.

At the height of Covid in 2020, most people were rendered jobless and lost sources of income, the most hit being women from low-income communities and regions. Covid brought to light what isolation can do to humans; from an increase in SGBV to mental illness.

2020 raised many pertinent questions: Have we made any steps in terms of SGBV? What efforts do we need to solidify and make work to ensure that such issues are worked on? So many questions yet very few solutions.

There are organizations that have worked on spearheading mental health support for women, which also aid in the SGBV fight, it will be important to address such issues together. Covid 19 helped us understand that isolation of women and violence go hand in hand and so providing support for women will help aid in support of SGBV survivors.

Is mental health critical in aiding SGBV? Yes. Is SGBV still stuck in conferences and homes and not a conversation that has made large effects in aiding women? Yes. More needs to be done! The time is now.