Enhancing Multi-Sectoral Response to Electoral Sexual Violence in Kenya (2017-2019)

Contributor: Mercy Opiyo, Program Associate, Access to Justice and Women Rights

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The 2017 election period presented an urgent need to carry out monitoring of sexual violence with a view to identify fresh cases, carry out documentation and provide immediate response.

The Access to Justice and Women Rights Project is being implemented by COVAW with support from the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA). It is a two year project (2017-2019) that seeks to enhance holistic response to survivors of Sexual violence in violence prone areas in Kenya. Its main target areas are Nairobi, Kisumu, Kiambu, Homabay, Nanyuki and Nyeri
The project’s overall goal is to document and provide response to survivors of sexual violence (SV), giving priority to the election related SV survivors at national level and in selected violence prone counties. The project carries out forensic documentation, psychosocial support and assistance to these election related victims, and other SV victims through direct service provision, in collaboration with already existing initiatives offering such services. These efforts are concentrated in the hot spots, areas which have historically been violent hubs.
The project also provides psychosocial support and counseling services for victims of SV in order to prevent trauma complications and to support their pursuit for legal redress.
Further, the project aims to provide legal aid for the survivors with the support of pro-bono lawyers, to enable them to report cases to police and follow through with the necessary police investigative process. Support groups have been formed to bring together survivors for emotional support and practical surviving skills. This is in addition to the individual counselling support.
Beyond the urgent election response, the project undertakes awareness creation on the rights of SV victims through legal aid clinics and community legal awareness campaigns in two counties (Nairobi and Kiambu). High-level trainings are undertaken, drawing participants from the target hot spots in order to advocate for improved coordination in the mutli-sectoral response to SV at county level. To support psychosocial and health needs of SV survivors, the project set up an emergency kitty for psychosocial, medical and related needs.
In addition, the project is scaling up its interventions with intellectually challenged survivors of sexual violence using a two pronged approach – direct legal and psychosocial support to the survivors and enhancing duty bearers’ awareness and response on the rights of intellectually disabled victims of sexual violence. This action serves to enhance the limited capacity of criminal justice actors to investigate and prosecute crimes against this special group of women and girls, to advocate against the systematic legal and social discrimination they face and for reform of the retrogressive legal provisions of the Penal code .Prosecutors capacity to handle sexual violence cases of intellectually disabled victims has been enhanced through a practical case clinic methodology.

Pro-bono lawyers provide services in the legal aid clinics and for court representation. These lawyers are provided with opportunities for Continuous Legal Education (CLE) under the Law Society of Kenya (LSK). These actions build upon the successes of two convictions of perpetrators in Milimani (Criminal Case No. 762 of 2015) and Narok law Court, which increased capacity of prosecutors, submission of a memorandum to Judiciary Technical Committee developing Criminal Procedure Bench Book aimed at improving dispensation of justice, increased community support for the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities, increased capacity of duty bearers to respond to SGBV complaints by intellectually challenged women and girls, and successful engagement of advocates within a pro-bono lawyers scheme.
Monitoring and update meetings are held with all the SV victims/guardians to enable them to participate meaningfully in the cases. COVAW periodically convenes legal strategy meetings and invites pro-bono lawyers. In order to strengthen project implementation, quarterly M&E meetings are held to track progress and to evaluate successes while learning from experiences. Strengthening of the organizations capacity and governance is a continuous process undertaken through the board meetings, annual planning and review and mid-year review sessions.