Kenya rape survivors can’t access mental health help


Mental health

from MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi, Kenya
Kenya Bureau
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – SURVIVORS of sexual violence in Kenya are facing barriers to quality mental health services in their communities.

Barriers survivors experience range from costly transportation to stigma to infrastructure challenges to undertrained health workers.

This is according to the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and the Survivors of Sexual Violence in Kenya Network (SSVKN).

They have penned an assessment titled, “Voicing Our Plight: Using Photovoice to Assess Perceptions of Mental Health Services for Survivors of Sexual Violence in Kenya.”

It documented the wide-ranging challenges that survivors of sexual violence in Kenya face related to mental health services.

The assessment was conducted in 2022 using Photovoice, an inclusive and participatory methodology that mitigates the risk of re-traumatising survivors of sexual violence.

The assessment team identified ten survivors of sexual violence from across Nairobi who were engaged in their communities as activists, human rights defenders, and volunteers helping other survivors access health services.

Under national laws and policies as well as international treaties Kenya’s government is obligated to provide mental health care for survivors of sexual violence, but the research indicated shortcomings in the implementation of those policies.

“Survivors have the right to mental health care, and the Government of Kenya has an obligation to provide it,” said Naitore Nyamu-Mathenge, head of PHR’s Kenya office.

The activist said the Kenyan government must no longer delay providing high-quality mental health care access for survivors of sexual violence.

“There is an urgent need for the government to build capacity in and provide funding to health facilities to provide high-quality, free post-rape care and affordable mental health care.”

This is required under Kenya’s new Mental Health Amendment Act.

Rights groups decry that sexual and gender-based violence remains under-reported and under-prosecuted in Kenya and globally.

The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of 2022 Statistics indicates that 34 percent of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 in Kenya reported having experienced physical violence at least once in their lifetime and 13 percent reported having experienced sexual violence.

Many of these cases are going unreported.

Often, survivors do not seek medical and psychological care or pursue justice and accountability.

This is due to factors such as safety concerns, stigma, and lack of services.

In addition, survivors often are not able to physically access health facilities due to distance, cost, physical infrastructure that is difficult to navigate and high volumes of patients.

–CAJ News









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