By Consolata K. Kiara
Gender violence, also known as gender based violence, or gendered violence, includes rape, sexual-assault, sexual harassment, stalking, prostitution and sex trafficking. This type of violence is influenced by gender relationships and includes all types of violence against men, women, children, adolescents, gay, transgender and gender nonconforming people.
It is violence directed against a person because of their gender motivated by aggression, revenge, competition and entitlement. Both men and women experience gender based violence, but the majority of victims are children and women.
Medical dictionary defines gender as a classification of organisms based on their sex. It is also the socially constructed views of feminine and masculine behavior within individual cultural groups.
To adequately address the issue of gender violence, there is need to look at cultural issues that encourage violence as part of masculinity. Kenya continues to experience gender and domestic violence, with recent cases of domestic violence with fatal consequences.
This, despite various laws designated to curtail gender violence. Some of the laws are, the Sexual Offences Act – Kenya Law No. 3 of 2006. Mrs. Njoki Ndungu, one of the Supreme Court Judges, stated that, “I believe the law has served Kenyans as it was intended, which was to address the prosecution and management of sexual offences comprehensively”. But has it? Other laws are the children’s Act, The HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act among others.
Currently, the most vulnerable groups to gender violence are the pupils in primary schools, secondary schools, tertiary institutions and universities in that order.
Some devastating statistics have been put forward. According to the recent report by the Teachers Service Commission- TSC, (Daily Nation-Thursday 14/03/2019) tutors entrusted with the care of pupils are notorious for taking advantage of school girls and are responsible for most of the pregnancies reported. The challenge appears to be that schools are no longer safe spaces for children as protectors turn predators.
UNESCO, in 2016, raised a red flag about sexual harassment of learners aged between 13 and 17 years by teachers. Sadly, it is reported that not only teachers prey on the school children, but local communities are also culprits. Some of these cases were due to engendered cultures, early marriages and ignorant parents accepting hush money from teachers or other school workers. Local communities hide within their cultural practices to deceive the girls that they were ready for marriage after accepting dowries and bribes.
Eliminating gender violence worldwide is an uphill task. But it can be done with more commitment and concerted effort from all Nations. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child declared that, “Mankind owes to the child the best it has to offer.”
Despite the effort Kenya continues to make to achieve some positive success, the country has a long way to go from eliminating gender violence against children to domestic violence in families.
Children are being nurtured to continue with future generations, but with the predators circulating around them from all corners of the globe more determination and commitment is required. The decisions grown up make as they nurture the children start right from their families, communities, schools and later worker places. Children need to be protected from the evils of new technology which exposes them to pornography and other explicit materials.
Religious Institutions, the civil society organizations, the UN agencies, need to partner and build strong bridges to protect the children of Kenya in particular and those of the world in general from sex pests.
Eradicating Gender Violence in Kenya
In Kenya there is urgent need to sensitize and specifically educate the public on child protection and continue to strengthen and empower community structures such as “Nyumba Kumi, Area Advisory Councils, Children’s clubs, school committees and Boards of management amongst others. These structures could form visible frameworks with rules and regulations to identify early threats within vulnerable families and even refer children to appropriate protection services such as child welfare among others.
Parents who do not carry out parenting duties appropriately should be denied the privilege of raising their children who should be cared for by the safe structures which should be built in all counties.
All citizens, policy makers and governments as well as international stake holders should focus on meaningful welfare of the children in order to have a world of well adjusted, empowered citizens who are endowed with wisdom and courage to direct and utilize global resources wisely. Needless to say more concerted effort should be witnessed from the UN, National Council of Churches of Kenya- (NCCK), the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims and the Kenya Christian Professional Forum among others.
These powerful organizations had earlier added their voices where they called for concerted effort to address teenage pregnancies. The campaign needs to be wide spread, sustained and meaningful in order to ensure awareness creation and action to stop the vise.
Once the children are safe it follows that ultimately they will develop good behavior in their format years leading to responsible citizenry and adulthood. It goes without saying that with good citizens many vices will be a thing of the past. Issues of drug abuse, corruption, alcoholism, domestic violence, homicides and suicides which seem to be the order of the day, never witnessed before may reduce or cease altogether.
Finally, there is need to sustain the conversation and serious discussion on gender violence by all people of good will. This should involve the media, agencies dealing with the welfare of children, county governments, civil society, multilateral and bilateral organizations, evangelical organizations and other interested parties. People need to be intolerant to gender violence, domestic violence, drug abuse and corruption.
In conclusion, it is obvious that globally the evil nature of some humans comes in different form setting in motion vicious cycle of evil against others. The rapists and gender violence perpetrators usually are close people known to the vulnerable or close relatives and other unknown aliens. Everyone needs to be alert and passionate in protecting the vulnerable and being our neighbor’s keepers, loving them as the Bible spells it out in many words.
Blow the whistle and protect the child.
Consolata is the Executive Director
Consolation for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (COVUC)