• Empowering Duty Bearers to effectively respond to rights of sexual violence victims in Kisumu County

    Author: Wairimu Munyinyi Category: COVAW in the News , No Comments

    19 participants representing state and non-state actors met at Pinecone Hotel, Kisumu County for a two-day training workshop between 28th and 29th May, 2019. The workshop aimed at strengthening capacity of the participants to effectively respond to rights of sexual violence victims in Kisumu County. The training workshop also sought to re-enforce the responsiveness and accountability by all actors in the County for Comprehensive Protection, Prevention and Response to End Sexual and Gender Base Violence in the County. The workshop was supported by Open Society Initiative for East Africa (OSIEA) under “Enhancing Multi-Sectoral Response to Sexual Violence in Hot spots in Kenya” project.

    A group discussion of participants who attended the High Level Training of Duty Bearers in Kisumu County.

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  • Vulnerabilities of Sexually Abused Women and Girls with Intellectual Disabilities in Nairobi, Kiambu and Narok Counties of Kenya

    Author: Wairimu Munyinyi Category: COVAW in the News , No Comments

    May 2019: 12-year-old Esther (not her real name) is special. She has limited capacity to mentally reason, learn or even solve simple problems. Esther is yet to undertake simple and practical everyday skills such as combing her hair. Esther suffers from intellectual disability. But what’s even more sad, is that, at a tender age of just 12 years, Esther is now a mother! No. She did not wish to be one. You see, Esther was allegedly being defiled several times by a 43-year-old man, Kamau (not his real name)! Kamau is Esther’s neighbour. But a bad neighbour! When the incident got known to the public, Kamau was almost lynched by the public through mob justice. He however escaped that when he got rescued by police. Esther’s case was forwarded to the local courts. It is over two years now; the case is still ongoing. Esther is yet to find her justice.

    A lot has changed for worse since Esther was sexually abused! She no longer goes to school. Due to her nature, she has no ability to raise her child. Her humble family has no choice but to take the responsibility of bring up both Esther and her child. Esther’s mother is also not mentally stable! Both Esther and her mother are both victims and survivors of domestic violence. Many times, the community has observed how both of them have suffered from the hands of their abusive father. A father, who needed to be both a provider and a protector to them. Sadly, stories like these of Esther and her mother are many. Only few get to be highlighted and solutions reached.

    COVAW with support from African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) has launched a project to enhance access to Justice for Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) Victims with Intellectual Disabilities” in Nairobi, Kiambu and Narok Counties in Kenya. The Project seeks to offer psycho social support and offer court representation for victims such as Esther.

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  • Project Launch: Enhancing Access to Justice for Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) Victims with Intellectual Disabilities

    Author: Wairimu Munyinyi Category: COVAW in the News , No Comments

    16th April, 2019: In the month of April, 2019, COVAW with support from African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) launched “Enhancing Access to Justice for Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) Victims with Intellectual Disabilities” project. The two-year project is implemented in Nairobi, Kiambu and Narok Counties. The project seeks to support victims (women and girls) of SGBV with intellectual disabilities by providing court representation, psycho social care to survivors/victims, advocating for an inclusive legal framework, strengthening capacity of criminal justice actors to respond appropriately to SGBV cases on women and girls with intellectual disabilities and enhancing public knowledge and awareness through Community Dialogue Forums (CDFs) on the rights of women and girls with intellectual disabilities at the project implementation sites.

    Nominated Member of Parliament Dhanittah Ghati (Centre and dressed on purple coat) together with other participants during the official launch of the project at Silver Springs Hotel, Nairobi.

    Under the project, COVAW continues to carry out CDFs in Nairobi’s Urban Informal Settlements (Mathare, Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Korogocho, Dandora, Huruma, Kariobangi, Kibera, Kawang’ware Slums), Kiambu’s Kiandutu slum, Makongeni, Ruiru, Ruaraka and Gitwamba. In Narok County, the project is implemented in Narok West and Narok South in the following seven project sites: Naroosura, Ololulung’a, Naikara, Sekinani, Aitong, Olmenkenyu and Olkinyei.

    An ongoing Community Dialogue Forum (CDF) in Narok County.

    Apart from sensitizing communities on the rights of women and girls with intellectual disabilities, COVAW is also taking the opportunity to map out SGBV cases in the community of women and girls with intellectual disabilities so as to facilitate their access to Justice. To do this, COVAW works closely with various paralegals spread across project implementation sites.

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  • Lobby- Educate Youth on Sex, Not Lower Consent Age

    Author: Wairimu Munyinyi Category: COVAW in the News , No Comments

    PRESS Statement 8th April, 2019; 10:00 am:

    The Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) has opposed the reduction of the age of consent from 18 to 16. It has urged the government to devise strategies to increase understanding of sexual and reproductive health.

    “COVAW calls upon the Kenyan government to develop a comprehensive sexual education curriculum and come up with practical strategies to implement the curriculum in both primary and secondary schools and also in technical and vocational institutions,” it said. Sex education would provide young adults with cognitive, social and interpersonal skills, COVAW said.

    “Sex education would significantly contribute to delaying the initiation of sex, reduce the number of sexual encounters and sexual partners amongst young adolescent girls and boys at puberty stage, and training them to behave responsibly when they eventually engage in sexual activity.” COVAW stated that sex education would be beneficial in various ways.

    “This information is not only about their physiology and their better understanding of the norms that society has set for sexual behaviour, but also the need to acquire the skills necessary to develop healthy relationships and engage in responsible decision-making about sex.”

    With the right information at a tender age, young girls will be less vulnerable to their immediate environment, especially as they interact with various people in the community, it said.

    “It is therefore important for the government to take a lead in giving comprehensive sexual and reproductive education other than contemplating lowering the age consent to 16 years.”

    The proposal to lower the age of consent came from three Court of Appeal judges, who cited the lengthy jail terms imposed on young men convicted of abuse.

    They made the proposal after they reversed a 15-year sentence slapped on a man who had impregnated a 17-year-old girl.

    The extension could be made to persons who are 18 and still pursuing high school education but in no way can it be extended to adults who are not within the high school student purview. Those are instead choosing to prey on our young girls Coalition on Violence against Women COVAW pointed out that young men between the ages of 18 and 21 are being convicted for sexual liaisons with girls below the age of 18.

    “Once the age is reduced, if no other remedies are put in place to reduce the moral decadence, then we will simply have transferred the problem as there will be a rise in the number of boys aged between 16 and 19 who will be jailed for the same offences hence taking us back to the same situation we are in at the moment.”

    COVAW said the only consideration, if any, would be to respond to the rise of Romeo and Juliet cases (child-to-child consensual teenage sex).

    “In this regard, a proposal would be to amend the Sexual Offences Act to put in special measures to protect children who are voluntarily engaging in these relations.”

    COVAW said the Kenyan Constitution should borrow from the Canadian jurisdiction and limit the age difference to two years, both parties to be in school and use no force or coercion.

    “The extension could be made to persons who are 18 and still pursuing high school education but in no way can it be extended to adults who are not within the high school student purview. Those are instead choosing to prey on our young girls.”

    COVAW explained that lowering the age of consent could put girls at risk of early pregnancies and adverse birth outcomes due to the gynaecological immaturity and incomplete pelvic growth.

    It will also force children to drop out of school earlier than they would have and take up roles they are not yet ready for, which could lead to increase in poverty, the lobby said.

    “Allowing a blanket decision to reduce the age without even due consideration to the people who will end up providing for the babies resultant of such unions is a joke.”

    COVAW said it is time to have discussions around the topic of teenage sex.

    “This should, in no way, be interpreted to mean entertaining talks on the age reduction for consent. If anything, the age of sex of sexual consent should be increased.”

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  • FGM TESTS A VIOLATION OF GIRLS’ RIGHTS

    Author: covaw Category: COVAW in the News , No Comments

    PRESS Statement 8th January, 2019; 2.13pm

    The Coalition on Violence against Women (COVAW) strongly condemns the directive issued by the Narok County Commissioner George Natembeya on 03.01.2019 –’FGM TESTS A MUST, in the Daily Nation Newspaper. The County Commissioner directed the school heads to ensure that girls in both secondary and upper primary schools undergo pregnancy and FGM tests before reopening of schools. According to him, this will better support girls by forming a basis for prosecuting parents who force the girls to undergo FGM as well as ensuring the perpetrators are held accountable.

    COVAW calls for retraction of this directive by the County Commissioner because it is criminal, demeaning and a violation of girls rights to dignity and privacy.

    COVAW is cognisant of the fact that FGM in itself is criminal, a violation of the rights of women and girls and outlawed in Kenya. While acknowledging the concerns, efforts and support of the County Commissioner towards improving girls’ education and ending retrogressive practices in Narok County, COVAW maintains that all related efforts must be within the confines of the law. ‘It is important for public officials to promote remedial measures that are within the law and those that uphold international human rights and principles –anything else would be counter-productive’, Wairimu Munyinyi- Wahome, the Executive Director of COVAW, said.

    Actions against FGM and child pregnancies should first be preventive and in the unfortunate events where girls have been subjected to FGM, the focus should be on the perpetrators of FGM, as a form of violence and not through taking affected girls through the double stigma of being objectified as a means of proof against the act. The proposed interventions by the County Commissioner in Narok are illegal and must be treated as such.

    Contact Details: Wairimu Munyinyi- Wahome, Executive Director, COVAW Tel. Number: 0733-594794, 0722-594794

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  • Judiciary, do more for mentally challenged sexual abuse victims

    Author: covaw Category: COVAW in the News , No Comments

    Judiciary, do more for mentally challenged sexual abuse victims (Wednesday September 26 2018), Retrieved from https://www.nation.co.ke/oped/opinion/Do-more-for-mentally-challenged-sexual-abuse-victims/440808-4777448-1yresz/index.html

    There is a group of girls and women in Kenya who go through all manner of abuse and stigma with little help. They get violated, abused and stripped of their dignity by the society — including by those close to them.

    There are innumerable cases of women and girls, and boys, with mental disabilities who have been subjected to sexual abuse but cannot access justice due to all manner of obstacles and crazy court rulings.

    Some of these victims of sexual violence have had cases against their attackers taken to court either by relatives or organisations on their behalf but, for some reason, justice has been long in coming.

    DISABILITY

    A key reason that mentally challenged women and girls have had difficulties in getting justice is their disability, the very attribute of which they are attacked in the first place.

    Never mind that we still have outdated laws and policies that are not only insensitive but also derogatory in addressing sexual and gender violence visited on such women and girls.

    Delays in prosecuting such cases have been clear.

    The Coalition on Violence Against Women (Covaw), which has a programme to help women, girls as well as boys with mental disabilities who fall victim of sexual violence to access justice, singles out a backlog of DNA results at the Government Chemist as one of the reasons for the delays.

    Covaw executive director Wairimu Munyinyi-Wahome cites instances where they have had to take the initiative and prepare witnesses where prosecutors fail to do so, in cases where the organisation holds brief for the victims.

    LAX PROSECUTORS

    They also encounter lax prosecutors who quote outdated particulars of the law regarding sections of the Sexual Offences Act and the Penal Code in sexual violence cases involving women, girls and even men with mental disabilities.

    In Nanyuki, for instance, a woman with mental disabilities was raped by a man said to be a family friend. When the matter went to court, he was charged with “involvement in prostitution with a person with mental disability”. Not rape.

    The court allowed Covaw’s application to amend the charge but, two years later, the 40-year-old woman awaits justice.

    WILLING PARTICIPANT

    In Nyeri, a mentally disabled woman was continually raped for a year.

    The suspect admitted to impregnating her but was acquitted, with the magistrate arguing that the court was unable to tell whether or not she was a willing participant.

    Covaw is seeking a judicial interpretation on whether a person with mental disabilities has the capacity to consent.

    But what kind of men are these who target such women and children? Some even conspire to subvert justice by influencing delays in hearings through lengthy adjournments. Others intimidate the victims, including by threatening them and their families.

    In Kitui, a disturbing case is still pending. It involves the defiling of a 13-year-old girl with a mental disability, reportedly by the head teacher of the special school where she was a pupil. The child has since given birth from this rape but her at-tacker has denied the two charges of defilement and indecent assault.

    ASSAULT IN SCHOOL

    The 2016 case is still active. In court, a number of parents came out to complain to Covaw officials that their handicapped daughters had also been sexually assaulted at the school. They were advised to report the matter to police.

    In Nyeri, a case was filed of a mentally challenged minor who was defiled and impregnated by a neighbour.

    The suspect had attempted to use his connections with an administrator to have the matter hushed up. An arrest warrant was placed on him. Then 16, she has since given birth.

    At the Makadara courts in Nairobi, a case involving rape of a young man with mental disability is still at the hearing stage since 2014. In Nyahururu, another that involves a gang-rape of a 13-year-old has been before court since 2015.

    There are many others in Kiambu, Nyeri, Milimani and Kibera.

    Many cases involving sexual assault against this category of Kenyans are pending in court, yet society seems to either turn a blind eye or simply leave the victims to their own devices.

    Mentally unstable individuals require special attention and care more than the ‘normal’ ones are giving them.

    The Judiciary should vacate the lacklustre attitude they have exhibited for years and do what they ought to for society — protect the most vulnerable. Our courts are, rightly, the last line of defence against injustice. They ought to live up to that.

    Ms Rugene is a consulting editor. nrugene@gmail.com. Twitter: @nrugene

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  • HEARING OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL PETITION FILED ON BEHALF OF SEXUAL GENDER BASED VIOLENCE SURVIVOR OF THE POST ELECTION VIOLENCE AT THE HIGH COURT OF KENYA BEFORE HON. JUSTICE ISAAC LENAOLA ON 22ND JANUARY 2014 AT 9AM

    Author: covaw Category: COVAW in the News , No Comments

    Press Release  Nairobi, 21 January 2014 on Wednesday, 22 January 2014, four civil society organizations and eight individual petitioners begin their trial against the Attorney General and five other senior government officials for their failure to protect victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) during the post-election violence of 2007-8, their failure to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators, and their failure to provide reparations to the victims. The case is the first constitutional petition of its kind brought by victims of SGBV during the post-election violence, and it will be heard in the Constitutional and Human Rights Division of the High Court of Kenya in Nairobi.

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