16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign is an international initiative which emanated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. Every year, CWGL composes a Campaign theme in consultation with women’s human rights advocates worldwide and then circulates an announcement for the campaign as widely as possible. This year, the theme that was unanimously agreed upon was centered on bringing an end to all forms of Gender based violence. Hence the overriding theme of this year is.
COMMIT. ACT. DEMAND: WE CAN END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN!
The ongoing campaign was launched on 25th November and will run through to10th December 2015: dates which are aimed at linking International Day against Violence against Women (November 25th) and International Human Rights Day (December 10th).
WHAT IS GENDER BASED VIOLENCE?
Gender-based violence has been defined by the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as ‘any act…that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in private or public life…violence against women shall be understood to encompass, but not be limited to, physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, the community, including battery, sexual abuse of female children, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence, violence related to exploitation, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women, forced prostitution, and violence against women perpetrated and condoned by the state’.
Types of Gender Based Violence
Gender Based Violence can take many forms which include:
• Intimate partner violence (sexual. Physical, emotional)
• Forced sexual initiation
• Sexual coercion
• Child sexual abuse
• Female Genital Mutilation
• Honor Killings
One of the most common forms of Gender Based Violence is abuse by husbands or male intimate partners, otherwise known as intimate partner violence. Most incidents of this kind of violence will be found in a home setting. Research reveals that abusers and violators tend to be those in positions of power relative to that of their victims. Further, a majority of violators are men, while a majority of the victims are women, indeed, reflecting the very real patriarchal power structure within the contemporary society. Other terms that have been used to describe intimate partner violence include battering, domestic violence, and rape and though not recognized in many jurisdictions, marital rape.
The Prevalence of Gender Based Violence in Kenya.
Data elicited by a recent study on domestic violence undertaken by FIDA Kenya reveals that gender based violence and intimate partner violence is on an upward spiral. The study indicates that 74.5% of the respondents interviewed in the Coast, Nairobi, Nyanza and Western provinces indicated that they have been physically abused within their homestead. This data confirms research in the Kenya Health and Demographic Survey (DHS) which indicates that half of Kenyan women have experienced violence since they were 15 years and one in four cases reported experiencing violence in the 12 months preceding the survey. The DHS revealed that nearly one third of women reported that they have been beaten, and the vast majority of those report that their spouse or partner was the perpetrator. Similarly in 2004, a study by FIDA Kenya on the prevalence of partner violence in Nairobi, found out that 40% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 has experienced partner violence at least once in their lifetime. The findings also reveal that 52% of women reported physical partner abuse at some point in their life. In one year, April 2007 – March 2008 the Gender Violence Recovery Center, based at the Nairobi Women’s Hospital, recorded a total of 2,750 survivors of sexual violence and domestic violence.
THE PROTECTION AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT, (PADV) 2015
For years in Kenya, domestic violence has been meted out on men, women and children and there was no special legislation on such crime. In may 2015, the PADV Act was accented to and it’s commencement date was June 2015. This is the legislation in Kenya that solely addresses violence within the family setting.
The journey towards achieving this legislation was a long and protracted one which involved cooperation within the civil society and members of Parliament. The law was perceived as challenging patriarchal power in society and such some male MPs were against it. Lobbying for the act was success in the end.
PADV Act sought to provide relief and protection to victims of domestic violence. Some of the non conventional offenses now prosecutable include : economic violence, emotional abuse, stalking, interference from in laws as well as virginity testing and sexual violence in marriage. Additionally, a welcome clause in the legislation is any person can report abuse on behalf of the victim. Initially it was restricted to the victim. Measures to ensure protection of the victim and dependants are set out in the Act. I.e the state is supposed to provide protection orders to the victims and at the same time the court can order for counselling services and compensation to the victims.
The act seeks to protect those in a domestic relationship I.e those married, those previously married, those divorced, those engaged, living in the same household, relatives, children etc
PADV act provides for Family Protection Fund which will be for assisting victims of domestic violence. This fund will be managed by Domestic Violence (Family Protection) Advisory Board.
Every police station will have a desk manned by a police officer who has received adequate training and has expertise in dealing with domestic violence or family related issues.
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS INSTRUMENTS RELATING TO GBV
There are several international human rights instruments which were enacted to inter alia, eliminate all forms of violence against women and also children. Notable among them is The Convention on The Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women (CEDAW). Article 5 provides that the State has an obligation to eliminate all sorts of discrimination against women. Article 16 obligates the State to eliminate discriminate against women in marriage and family relations. This can be inferred to mean that the State is obligated to protect women from sexual gender based violence which in essence includes inter alia, domestic violence, sexual violence and female genital mutilation. The treaty body gave General Recommendation No. 12 which proposed that the State should enact legislation which protects women from all kinds of violence such as sexual violence, domestic violence, sexual harassment, to name a few. The treaty body also gave General Recommendation No. 19 that proposed the elimination of violence against women.
The Optional Protocol to CEDAW also provides a platform where women can seek redress for violations of their human rights at the international level.
United Nations General Assembly in recognizing the need to uphold the rights and principles enshrined in the following international instruments, inter alia, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment saw the need to pass a resolution protecting women from gender based violence in resolution A/RES/48/104.
The Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) also provides for protection of children against violence and any harmful practices which will affect the physical, mental and/ or psychological development of the child.
However, Kenya is yet to ratify some International human rights instruments which inter alia, are aimed at the elimination of violence. This includes the Protocol to The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.
Kenya is a signatory to a number of the international conventions and indeed it has taken steps to domesticate some of the provisions therein by enacting the Sexual Offences Act and Children’s Act of 2007.
Section 14 of the Children’s Act only protects the girl child under the age of 18 years from FGM. This leaves girls and women over 18 years at risk of being circumcised, thus prone to gender violence.
If the fight of the ending Gender Based Violence is to succeed, all stakeholders should be at the fore front lobbying the Government to enact and implement gender responsive laws. This will include:
• Two rules and regulations on some applications of the PADV Act need to be made clear as well as reporting mechanisms. Most importantly the need for public awareness of the legislation is vital for its effects to be felt among citizens.
• Urge the Government to enact a New Constitution
• Lobby the government to make relevant amendments to the penal code to criminalize all forms of gender based violence.
• Urge the government to amend the Sexual Offences Act so as to recognize the existence of marital rape and criminalize it.
• Advocate for the ratification and domestication of International human rights instruments that aim at eliminating violence, this includes the Maputo Protocol
• Conducting of public awareness and sensitization campaigns aimed at discouraging all forms of Gender Based Violence.