Gender Based Violence

Gender Based Violence Factsheet

 March 2012

Gender Based Violence in Kenya: What Next?

Gender based violence(GBV) is one of the most pervasive and systematic human rights violations in the world today[i],[ii] including in Kenya.

  • Gender Based Violence (GBV) includes rape, genital mutilation, defilement, physical abuse, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, spouse battering, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, harmful cultural practices such as child marriages; and any act that result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering of an individual.
  • 45% of women aged 15 to 49 years in Kenya have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence[iii]
  • GBV is not a women’s issue. 3% of women reported physical violence against their husbands (KDHS 2008/9)

What drives Gender based violence in Kenya?

  • Gender inequality
  • Poverty and socio-economic inequality
  • Socio-cultural norms on masculinity
  • Illiteracy
  • Gender power dynamics
  • Drug and substance abuse
  • Cultural practices and beliefs

Impact of Gender based violence

The effects of gender based violence upon the survivors; their families and society at large are far reaching[iv].

a)      On the individual:

  • Long-term psychological and physical trauma
  • Feelings of anger guilt and shame
  • Unwanted pregnancies
  • Pelvic inflammatory diseases
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • HIV infection
  • Injuries
  • Mental illnesses
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Death
  • Financial implications in accessing services
  • Family disintegration (in case of family inflicted violence; or where survivor fails to receive support from family post-violation)


b)     On society:

  • Public resources have to be allocated towards the provision of health and legal services. Direct expenditures on service delivery by on health, law enforcement, judicial and social security.
  • Indirect costs represented by increased demands on health facilities, courts, police and prisons; Lost productivity due to absence from employment or deaths..

Reporting of cases of Gender based violence and access to services

Despite the recognition of the negative impact of Gender based violence, it is under-reported because:

  • Many survivors do not know their legal rights and are afraid to come forward for fear of victimization; fear of stigma, rejection by families and community, etc.
  • Slow, tedious and costly judicial processes.
  • Lack of mechanisms to enhance protection and safety of witness and survivors.
  • Delayed justice, which makes many prefer the informal justice system.
  • Limited Access to protection, medical and psychosocial support services.
  •  Lack of resources and political will.
  • Cultural norms, practices and beliefs around gender.

Certain cultural practices continue to tolerate certain forms of Gender based violence like female genital mutilation, early child marriages, and intimate partner violence. These practices contribute to lack of reporting to health facilities and justice system due to:

  • Beliefs around it not being culturally permissible to report a family/clan members
  • Pressure from the family
  • Fear of stigma and blame

Traditional mechanisms for resolving GBV matters hinder reporting to the police but are generally preferable because they are considered faster and in order to[v], promote family reconciliation

  • Ensure material compensation by the survivor
  • Maintaining peace within the community

Why Combat Gender-Based Violence?

Violence of any kind is dehumanizing. Gender-based violence intends to keep the victim in a subservient position – most especially when the victims are girls and women. It has been well-articulated that gender equality is central to any effort towards sustainable human development. Women’s empowerment and their full participation on an equal basis in all spheres of society, including in decision making and access to power, are fundamental for the achievement of equality, development and peace[vi].

 Government of Kenya Response to Gender based violence

The Government of Kenya in close collaboration with civil society organizations and development partners has made significant progress in developing frameworks facilitating response to the needs of survivors.

This response has been in the form of:

  • Enactment of The Sexual Offences Act, 2006
  • Awareness creation amongst the public on the SOA, 2006
  • Capacity building of service providers on management  of  GBV cases
  • Development of national guidelines on the management of various forms of violence including sexual violence.

The GoK has further provided an enabling environment through the setting up of technical working groups in different ministries to facilitate multi-sectoral response to GBV from a policy perspective. These include:

  • The GBV sub-cluster under the national gender and equality commission.
  • The gender and reproductive health technical working group under the ministry of health.
  • The taskforce on the implementation of the sexual offences Act, under the office of the Attorney General.

Through the Ministry of Health, survivors of violence can access services in all public health facilities.

Civil Society Response to GBV in Kenya

Civil Society Organizations have complemented and supported the Government’s response to GBV in various forms including;

  • Contribution to and participation in the relevant technical working groups, training of first line service providers like health care workers and police.
  • Dissemination of information, education and communications materials to increase public awareness of GBV.
  • Commodity supply of essential drugs and rape kits for post rape care management. (
  • Activism events to keep GBV on the agenda

What next?

The GOK should;

    • Increase budgetary allocations to strengthen delivery of free services to survivors of violence, within the public sector, especially the health and the law enforcement sectors.
    • Conduct nationwide dissemination and sensitization of the public on the  national medical legal frameworks such as:
    • The sexual Offences Act
    • The national guidelines on various forms of GBV
    • Strengthen collaboration with civil society to harness great benefits in response mechanisms.

Civil Society should;

  • Target interventions to the specific Gender based violence practices within communities whilst simultaneously ensuring community participation to change norms that propagate Gender based violence.
  • Conduct studies on the costs of GBV to provide evidence for informed responses.

The media should;

The media has a key role as society’s watchdog to fight against gender based violence. By making gender based violence more visible through the media, the press forces society to acknowledge it as a problem and to place pressure on policy makers to legislate against it and, where legislation already exists, to enforce such legislation. Sensitive reporting on gender based violence can also help survivors or and others by providing them with the information they need to protect themselves or others or seek help and justice[vii].

In this regard, the media should;

  • Have continuous and regular coverage of gender-based violence and woman and child abuse throughout the year, going beyond the 16 Days campaign.
  • In the case of children who have been abused, the media has a legal responsibility to protect the rights of the children concerned.
  • Diversify coverage of the different types of abuse, not only focusing on the mostextreme forms of physical and sexual abuse, when there are many other forms of abuse, including psychological, emotional and economic abuse.
  • Highlight case studies of survivors of GBV and interview their friends and relatives.
  • Highlight case laws that have been arrived at using the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) to show the impact of the act.
  • Interview magistrates to find out to which extend the SOA informs the adjudication process.
  • Show the communities’ role in addressing sexual and gender based violence.
  • Tie in international instruments like the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008).
  • Give other alternative voices other than the police in highlighting issues of GBV.
  • Ensure a media policy is in place that guides how they report GBV issues.
  • Partner with NGO’s for knowledge building to address emerging trends of GBV by taking part in training on GBV to understand and be able to contextualize the issues within the thematic scenarios such as health, electoral process, and legal among others.
  • Discuss the existing laws and policies on gender-based violence, woman and child abuse.
  • Engage actively with men and boys in the discourse about combating violence in our homes, our communities and in the workplace.

  Authors: Ajema C, Mukoma W, Mbugua C, Valai M, & Atieno R



[i] Women Report on Gender-based Violence. Washington. Population Reference Bureau, (2000) MEASURE communication.

United Nations General Assembly. Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against

Women. Proceedings of the 85th Plenary Meeting, Geneva, Dec. 20, 1993.

[ii] United Nations General Assembly. Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against

Women. Proceedings of the 85th Plenary Meeting, Geneva, Dec. 20, 1993.

[iii] Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) and ICF Macro. 2010. Kenya Demographic and Health

Survey 2008-09. Calverton, Maryland: KNBS and ICF Macro.

[iv] Heise, L., Ellsberg, M., & Gottemoeller, M. (1999). Ending Violence Against Women.

Population Reports. Series L, No. 11. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University School of

Public Health, Population Information Program

[v] Exchange Violence against women and girls: breaking the culture of silence. Accessed from 29th March 2012

Media Monitoring Project. Keeping an eye on the campaign: Monitoring Media Coverage of the 16 Days of Activism: No Violence against Women and Children Campaign, May 2005. Accessed from on 30th March 2012

[vi] NCAPD Policy Brief No. 6, Combating Gender-Based Violence in Kenya

[vii] Reporting Gender Based Violence, A handbook for Journalists. Accessed from on 30th March 2012


Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter


Subscribe to my feed

Join my Newsletter

* indicates required