ADVISORY OPINION / STATEMENT THE SHADOW PANDEMIC: DEMANDING CONCRETE ACTIONS TO PROTECT WOMEN AND GIRLS FROM GENDER BASED VIOLENCE DURING THE COVID -19 PANDEMIC

Contributor: COVAW

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To,
Hon. Prof Margret Kobia
Cabinet Secretary, Public Service, and Gender
Hon. Mutahi Kagwe,
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Chairperson, National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus
Hon. Simon K. Chelugui,
Cabinet Secretary for Labour, Social Security and Services
Dr. Fred Okengo Matiang’i,
Cabinet Secretary for Interior & Coordination of National Government
Hon. David Maraga,
Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya,
Mr. Hilary Nzioki Mutyambai,
Inspector General, National Police Service,
Mr. Noordin Haji.
Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions,
Hon. Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya
Chairperson Council of Governors,
Siddharth Chatterjee
UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya,
Dr. Ademola Olajibe
Representative United Nations Population Fund,
Anne Mutavati
UN Women Country Director.

ADVISORY OPINION / STATEMENT
THE SHADOW PANDEMIC: DEMANDING CONCRETE ACTIONS TO PROTECT WOMEN AND GIRLS FROM GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE DURING THE COVID -19 PANDEMIC.
We, the undersigned Women Rights organizations, being representatives of Kenyan women in all their different ages and diversity take note of the alarming increased incidences of violations of Human rights and specifically on Gender-Based Violence as noted and acknowledged by different government agencies and representatives.
We further wish to note/confirm that the exponential increase in GBV has been triggered if not exacerbated by some of the measures undertaken by the Government in its efforts to contain the spread of the Corona Virus Disease (COVID 19) such as restriction of movement and closure of social spaces including schools.
We have ascertained that the COVID 19 pandemic much like other national emergencies has magnified a deeply entrenched culture of gender-based violence, structural weaknesses in response to it as well as inequalities that the most vulnerable in the society particularly women, youth and children of Kenya continue to endure even in ‘peace’ times. Further, we confirm that the national health response to the pandemic has had unintended consequences. Specifically, there has been a significant rise in incidences of Rape with certain counties registering numbers as high as seven defilement and rape cases weekly. Domestic violence cases have also been recorded as increasing drastically with Intimate Partner Violence being on the rise. Certain counties that are hot spots for harmful practices such as Female Genital mutilation have registered violations in their tens. All these violations are compounded by the challenges of victims’ inability to access essential services including health facilities, police stations, and other support services most of which are overwhelmed in their response to COVID 19. Whereas we recognize and laud the government for the efforts so far in addressing the COVID 19 health crisis, that has ranged from daily updates on the status of the spread of the disease; comprehensive messaging on the preventive hygiene measures; isolation and quarantine measures for confirmed and suspected cases respectively to the directive to work from home for non-essential service providers, we, unfortunately, note that the GBV agenda has been left behind. Specifically, we note that the protection and prevention of sexual violence within the course of State response to the health pandemic has not been as visible. It is in this regard therefore that we urge the government through the National Taskforce on Coronavirus Disease to ensure that the National Response Plans to address COVID19 are gender-sensitive and responsive while ensuring that they are contextualized to the different realities in the communities. We call upon the Taskforce to regularly review the measures in accordance with the State’s human rights commitments and ensure the protection and fulfillment of the rights of women and girls. Available analyses indicate that women are more likely to be infected due to their primary caregiving roles or as healthcare workers.
We further call upon the Ministry of Public Service and Gender to put women and girls at the centre of their efforts and thus come up with comprehensive measures towards prevention, response, and accountability on violence against women is put in place. We specifically ask the government to priorities the following actions/issues:
1. Shelter and safe houses
Recommendation: Ensure women and girls have access to safe alternative shelters that offers protection against Gender-Based Violence.
2. Psychosocial and online counselling
Recommendation:The 1195 state-run toll-free number should be fully resourced to operate for 24 hours from the Covid-19 fund to provide for Psychosocial support and care as well as referral for survivors.
3. Awareness Raising:
Recommendation: Raise awareness of protection and response from GBV, promote healthy behavior and social norm change, reduce stigma and discrimination while supporting the building of safer and more resilient communities.
Recommendation: The government’s COVID 19 response team must provide clear directives on how pregnant women and girls should continue safely accessing their natal care and seek out assisted deliveries to avert infant and mortality rates during this pandemic
Recommendation: Launch advocacy and awareness campaigns targeting men and boys
Recommendation: Preventative measures must be put in place to minimize the risk of girls dropping out of school permanently as a result of the lockdown, especially amongst adolescent girls who are often at higher risk of early pregnancies, forced early marriages, FGM, Sexual exploitation, rape, and defilement. Cash transfer, food distribution, and Sanitary towels Provision of financial support to vulnerable households to ease economic stress and especially to vulnerable female-headed households. A gendered human rights analysis of Ebola and Zika: Locating gender in global health emergencies.
Recommendation: That priority is given to female, persons with disabilities, and children headed households as they face exacerbated vulnerability and that food is given to individuals rather than households to regulate the unequal power relations within households, reduce women’s dependence on men and ensure women have enough for their children.
Recommendation: That food to female and child-headed households be distributed by women responders to prevent abuse, harassment and exploitation of women and girls.
Recommendation: Provision of a GBV referral network as well as support and ensure uninterrupted access of emergency services such as clinical management care for GBV survivors. Distribution of dignity/hygiene kits such as sanitary towels to women and girls.
4. Access to water
Recommendation: Installation and supply of WASH resources to promote hygiene especially the informal settlements must consider safety and protection concerns for women and girls. To reduce the risk of GBV in accessing these facilities, safe locations should be mapped and ensure that they are accessible to all especially to older women, women and girls with disabilities.
5. Funds allocation
Recommendation: Kenya is receiving funds from the World Bank, IMF, and other donors, we recommend that some of these resources be allocated to respond to the shadow pandemic of COVID- 19.
6. Strategic Partnership
Recommendation Convene briefings with partners, such as women’s right groups and other organizations representing most marginalized communities, to ensure that the response to COVID-19 does not perpetuate harmful gender norms, discriminatory practices and inequalities, including within the quarantine experience.
Recommendation: Prioritize women’s participation within communities by placing them in a good position to positively influence the design and implementation of prevention activities.
7. Data
Recommendation: Prioritize the collection and dissemination of accurate, complete age and sex-disaggregated data to understand how COVID-19 impacts individuals differently, in terms of prevalence, trends, and other important information.
8. Domestic Violence Cases
Recommendation: Courts should handle domestic violence as urgent cases following a United Nation’s alert about a horrifying global surge in domestic violence in recent times.

Signed by:
Coalition on Violence Against Women- COVAW
Centre for Rights Education and Awareness – CREAW
FIDA – Kenya
Equality Now
GROOTS Kenya
SDGs Forum Kenya
KEFEADO – Kenya Female