Reports of a spike in cases of Sexual and Gender Based (SGBV) during the Covid-19 pandemic have caught the attention of State organs including the Executive.
Early this month, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the National Crime Research Centre (NCRC) to probe the increasing number of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and teenage pregnancies.
The Head of State further appealed to social institutions such as churches to be vigilant and engage with stakeholders in finding a solution to the vice.
The President ordered the NCRC to prepare an advisory for security agencies on action that can be taken in the prosecution of perpetrators within 30 days.
For years, the government has relied on the police, chiefs and their assistants to fight SGBV in the community.
However, recent developments of police officers and chiefs as perpetrators of GBV has been cited as a weak link and have raised concern on their commitment to address the vice.
In July, reports emerged that two assistant chiefs and a policeman in Murang’a County were under investigations for allegedly demanding sexual favours from a minor they arrested for flouting Covid-19 regulations.
The trio survived mob justice and fled into the Aberdare Forest after they were allegedly caught with the16-year-old girl they had arrested for not wearing a mask.
In June, a Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) officer in Embu was charged after he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman.
The woman had been arrested on May 30, on suspicion that she had obtained money by false pretence. He summoned her to his office the following day, where he allegedly abused her. The woman reported the matter to the same police station and was taken to Embu Level Five Hospital.
Last month, an assistant chief in Wajir was arraigned and charged with defiling a minor. He denied the charges. Before being arrested, there were allegations of elders attempting to solve the matter out of court.
Women leaders from Wajir, however, intervened and cautioned the elders against using Maslaha system in solving SGBV cases and called for the chief’s immediate arrest.
Maslaha is a traditional alternative system of dispute and conflict resolution mostly used in North Eastern counties.
“We are appealing to the elders in Wajir County to look into the welfare of women and girls. We are destroying our girls’ lives by convening barazas to solve issues. This encourages more violence against women and girls,” said Nominated MCA Meimuna Said
The issue of elders seeking to settle sexual violence matters out of court came up for discussion during a consultative meeting convened by the National and Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) to come up with critical strategies to end child pregnancies.
Some participants expressed concern over the issue which denies victims and survivors of sexual violence justice.
Eva Komba, a gender development expert, said it is worrying that some administrators and police officers are turning out to be the greatest perpetrators of women and girls rights.
“It is sad to note that some women and girls are living at the mercy of chiefs and police officers who are supposed to safeguard and guarantee their safety,” said Ms Komba, adding that there is need to do background check of people being considered for employment as chiefs and police officers.
“An extensive background check of potential candidates for these positions is paramount since it will help to have people with unquestionable integrity and character. We do not want to have people with a record of being abusers becoming chiefs or police officers,” she said.
She noted that the Judiciary, and not the leaders, should fully take up the role of alternative dispute mechanism.