Now is the time to say NO to Sexual and Gender-based Violence in electoral conflict situations

Now is the time to say NO to Sexual and Gender-based Violence in electoral conflict situations

Pursuant to the mandate above, the KNCHR rolled out an election monitoring project that sought to monitor all stages of the electoral cycle and undertake remedial actions and interventions geared towards safeguarding human rights in the 2017 General Election and beyond. To lay ground for data collection, the Commission engaged election monitors in 47 counties and identified key parameters that would measure the extent of compliance with human rights standards in the electoral process. Fundamental to this was the enjoyment of rights by special interest groups, among them, women and children. 

Through the project, the Commission monitored political party primaries, campaigns, August 8th polls, October 26th repeat Presidential polls and post election scenarios. These efforts culminated into the documentation of three election reports namely: Fallacious Vote, Mirage at Dusk and Still a Mirage that recorded various violations including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). 
As we commemorate the 2018 International Women’s Day, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights takes this opportunity to highlight a heinous form of electoral violence: sexual and gender based violence in electoral conflict-situations. SGBV is a violation of the Right to Human Dignity, Freedom from torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. The ripple effect of this form of violation is that it not only affects women but also children, spouses, families and society as a whole.

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) as a Weapon in Electoral Conflict-Situations

Sexual and Gender-based Violence can be termed as any sexual act committed by or against a person – male or female – without their consent or any act that targets or violates a person’s sexual integrity. SGBV manifests itself in the form of rape, defilement, indecent acts and sexual assault among others. It has been frequently used as a weapon of conflict or war across the world with Kenya being no exception having documented hundreds of women, men, boys and girls falling victims during the 2007/8 post-election violence. 

Sexual and Gender-based Violence is a serious human rights violation and the State is mandated to take all measures to protect every person from falling victim. The physical and mental consequences of sexual violence are extremely dire not only to the survivor but also the family and society at large. In most instances, sexual violence has a direct effect on the protection of their sexual and reproductive health rights including unwanted pregnancies, contracting sexually transmitted infections and HIV and AIDS, lack of access to medical services including emergency abortions as prescribed by law, Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), maternal health care and gynecological complications including fistula. 

The nature of this violation and the stigma that surrounds it makes it difficult for most victims to come out and report. Also, as was evidenced by the KNCHR findings, accessing medical facilities within the prescribed 72 hours during the civil unrest and protests proved difficult, thereby most survivors missed out on essential medical services aimed at protecting their sexual and reproductive rights. 

KNCHR Preliminary Findings on Cases of SGBV in the 2017 General Election

In the 2017 General Elections the Commission, working in partnership with a number of organizations and individuals,  documented 123 cases of Sexual and Gender-based Violence between April 2017 and March 2018 that occurred within a highly contested political environment that saw increased acts of civil unrest and political protests. The alleged perpetrators were both the civilian and security agents.
The cases so far documented by KNCHR were reported in Nairobi City, Migori, Kisumu and Bungoma Counties. The trends documented indicate that most of the violations occurred in informal settlements that are located in urban areas, though some cases were also reported from rural areas. The following were the most affected areas: 

  • Nairobi City County: Uthiru, Kibra, Dandora, Mathare, Ngomongo, Kariobangi, Kawangware, Baba Dogo, Mowlem.
  • Migori County: Apida, Oruba.  
  • Kisumu County: Nyalenda, Manyatta, Kondele, Obunga, Mamboleo, Nyamasaria, 
  • Bungoma County:  Kimilili, Bumula and Mt Elgon (Kapsokwony, Cheptais, Chepkurkur, Kapkateny). 

The graphs below indicate the trends, patterns and extent to which sexual violations took place.


Challenges in Documentation

The Commission takes this opportunity to thank all the victims who came forward to record statements on the acts of sexual violence they suffered. However, the Commission is also aware that some victims were not able to report the violations because of either one or a combination of the following factors: 

  1. Fear of victimization by alleged perpetrators who were either community members or security agents;
  2. As a ‘taboo’ subject in many Kenyan households, the fear of stigmatization prevents many victims and survivors from disclosing their experiences to family for fear that such disclosure might lead to the disintegration of the family unit;
  3. At the time of the violations, victims and survivors experienced difficulties in accessing medical facilities due to the barricading of roads, violence in the neighborhoods and medical practitioners strike that was experienced at some point during the electoral cycle which affected public hospitals and health centers;
  4. Low levels of awareness on the importance of seeking immediate medical attention within 72 hours when violated
  5. There are low levels of reporting to key duty bearers due to lack of confidence that the perpetrators will be held accountable. 

Next steps

  1. The Commission shall continue working in close collaboration with stakeholders to reach out to more victims and enhance the documentation process, and facilitate medical and psychosocial support to the survivors of sexual violence.
  2. The Commission seeks to influence legal and policy reforms to reduce the prevalence of electoral related SGBV violations and enhance the protection of victims and survivors. The Commission takes this opportunity to urge the Government of Kenya to remove its reservation on Article 14 (2) (c) of the Maputo Protocol.
  3. Working together with stakeholders, the Commission will strive to secure appropriate redress for SGBV violations.

As we commemorate this day, the Commission takes this opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate organizations and individuals, especially those who work in the rural areas and urban informal settlements, who have taken it upon themselves to be the voice of the voiceless in reporting cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.

Let us all in one resolve raise our voices and say no to sexual and gender-based violence in electoral conflict-situations.

                                                                                   HUMAN RIGHTS FOR ALL, BY ALL, ALL THE TIME!

If you are a victim or know of a victim of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence during the 2017 electioneering period, contact us on our toll-free line 0800 720 627. The Commission assures you utmost confidentiality. Or visit any of our regional offices near you in Nairobi, Kitale, Kisumu, Mombasa, Laikipia University and Wajir.

SMS: 22359
twitter: @hakiKNCR   

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