from MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi, Kenya
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – A LOCKDOWN imposed by authorities to curb coronavirus (COVID-19) has triggered a gender-based and sexual violence crisis in Kenya.
Among other violations, a 16-year-old young woman has allegedly kidnapped, held captive and sexually assaulted for days by a man who claimed he needed a female companion to manage the government-imposed restrictions.
Neighbours have rescued the teenager, who is recovering in a safe house in the capital city, Nairobi.
Last week, the National Council on Administration of Justice reported a significant spike in sexual offences in many parts of the country in the past two weeks.
“In some cases, the perpetrators are close relatives, guardians and/or persons living with the victims,” the organisation stated.
The ongoing lockdowns have hampered hearing into these cases.
Human rights activists said the restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were likely to make it harder for survivors to report abuse and seek help and for service providers to respond efficiently.
Agnes Odhiambo, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, said sexual and other forms of violence against women had devastating consequences.
These include injuries as well as physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems, including sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies.
“The Kenya government should urgently protect women and girls against violence during this crisis,” Odhiambo said.
“Violence against women and girls is a crime, and they have a right to be protected even when the government is preoccupied with a pandemic.”
Kenya has confirmed 179 cases of COVID-19 and six deaths.
Government data indicates that 45 percent of women and girls aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence and 14 percent have experienced sexual violence.
Many cases are not reported and few women get justice or receive medical care.
– CAJ News