By Prudence Mutiso
Attorney, International Justice Mission, Kenya
As the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, many women and girls continue to face sexual and gender-based violence. According to UNDP, 243 Million women have suffered a form of violence in the past twelve months, with one in every three women facing some form of sexual and gender-based violence (“SGBV”) in their lifetime. In Kenya, data from the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey shows that 45 percent of women and girls face a form of gender-based violence annually, translating to close to eleven million women. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the violence against women in Kenya.
Between March 16th to April 1st, 2020, the National Council on Administration of Justice reported a significant spike in sexual offenses in many parts of the country with sexual violence cases constituting 35.8 percent of the cases reported during that period. UN organizations in Kenya attribute the rising SGBV cases to financial hardship due to restriction of movement and curfews affecting livelihoods, especially in the informal sector. The quarantine and social distancing requirements have also amplified individual stress levels leading to tense households with the risk of violence.